For more than two years we have watched how the Fukushima nuclear plant operator TEPCO has failed to take control of the disaster or be transparent about the real situation at the stricken plant, trying to hide problems such as leaking contaminated water.
TEPCO's mismanagement and ignorance of the facts played a key role both in causing the accident – the second worst nuclear accident in history – and increasing the severity of the disaster, according to the official Japanese government report.
But the Japanese government decided to keep TEPCO afloat with a bail-out of epic proportions, handing the management of the disaster back to those who caused it. The Japanese government did this against all commonsense, giving it an easy scapegoat to blame when things turned worse.
Only a couple of months ago a "rat-like animal" managed to knock out the Fukushima plant's cooling systems, causing the temperature to rise rapidly in the plant. And in the last few weeks the world has watched how the situation at Fukushima worsened again, this time with leaks of contaminated water.
Ending its cover-up, TEPCO has finally admitted that groundwater was continuing to leak into the Pacific Ocean, leading the Japanese regulator to classify the situation as an emergency and the government finally deciding to step in and take charge.
It should not have come as a surprise though. Similar to how the experts had warned TEPCO about the vulnerability of the plant prior to the the accident, some experts had long ago also voiced concerns about contaminated water likely leaking into the ocean. But trying to save face, TEPCO hid the leaks.
Experts had estimated that 10,000 gallons of radioactive water leak from the reactors each month and currently, more than 200,000 tons of contaminated water are being stored at the plant.
TEPCO had destroyed an entire nearby forest to make room for extra tanks that will eventually store 700,000 tons of water, but there are still no plans in place for when those tanks also fill up. The only plan TEPCO has is to dump the water into the ocean once the radioactivity is reduced, but the exact technology to do that effectively has not yet been invented.
Now, finally, both the government and the nuclear regulator NRA are saying they will take control of the situation because TEPCO clearly does not seem to be able to handle it.
Ironically this is the same regulator which instead of keeping a watchful eye on the worst nuclear accident in the last 20 years has focused on re-starting the Japanese reactors that were shut down after the disaster. And this is also the government of a prime minister who was travelled the world as a 'nuclear salesman' while the Japanese people continued to suffer the effects of the Fukushima disaster.
The time has come for the government and the regulator to actually step up and take responsibility for what is happening at Fukushima. Greenpeace is calling for the government and the NRA to urgently prioritise efforts to bring the Fukushima accident finally under control.
It's time for the wellbeing of the Japanese people and their wish to move beyond nuclear energy to be honoured and put ahead of the demands of the nuclear industry. It's two and a half years overdue.