TEPCO, Fukushima and Radioactive Water Leaks
After 2 years of officially ad. hoc decommissioning activities, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), the operator of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, has submitted a plan that has been approved by Japan’s nuclear regulator. The plan lays out all the procedures that Tepco is following to decommission the plant including the equipment it will use and details of essential safety checks. The Government is also considering allocating more funds to support the building of a large underwater wall made from frozen soil. These are much needed interventions given the negative publicity surrounding TEPCO- just after the election, TEPCO finally revealed that contaminated water from the plant has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean and a leak of water with dangerously high levels of radiation has only just been discovered this week! These disclosures are only the latest in a series of well-documented problems at the nuclear plant: a power outage, the release of radioactive steam and limited space to store the contaminated water. The cycle seems familiar: first denials and delays, then admissions and apologies from TEPCO officials. This attitude and slow progress can possibly be viewed and understood more from a Japanese cultural perspective of not wanting to losing face and indeed no-one could have anticipated the events that led to this, but these are very worrying developments for the health and future of the Japanese people.
Yakushina Shrine Visit and Ripples in Asia
August 15th marks the anniversary of the surrender of Japan in World War II and has been traditionally marked by Japanese Prime Ministers by a visit to the war shrine Yasukuni in Tokyo, which, as well as honouring Japan’s war dead, honours the souls of several war criminals. This has always inflamed tensions with other countries, especially China and South Korea, who feel that Japan have never really acknowledged or atoned for their use of comfort women and other atrocities committed during the war. Abe decided this year not to visit the shrine, although other prominent politicians did and instead he sent an offering to honour the Japanese men who fought for their country. Notably, Abe’s speech broke with 2 decades of tradition by NOT expressing any remorse for Japan’s war time aggressions. It is no secret that Abe has desires to revise Japan’s pacifist constitution and there are genuine concerns worldwide that he will use his power to re-establish a form of nationalism that will further these tensions even more!