TEPCO, the owner of the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant, has admitted that the damaged reactors are leaking highly toxic radioactive contamination into the Pacific Ocean – confirming what many of us had feared for some time.
Backtracking on previous denials, TEPCO's statement comes, coincidentally, just a day after the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cemented its hold on power with a big win in parliamentary elections last Sunday.
The question is, did TEPCO delay making its statement to avoid a potential political fall-out for Abe's LDP party, which has tried to avoid making nuclear energy part of the political debate?
Abe is looking to restart the country’s nuclear reactors, most of which have been idle since the nuclear disaster two years ago, and it’s possible that more bad news from the destroyed Fukushima reactors may have swayed the voting public.
A newly emboldened Japanese government will now feel it can push ahead to restart the country’s nuclear plants and sell or promote nuclear technology around the world despite the continued worry around the situation at Fukushima.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority had already told TEPCO two weeks ago to speed up completion of a seawall to block contaminated water that it suspected was leaking into the ocean.
Leaks in April had also raised concerns that TEPCO would dump radioactive water in the Pacific as it continues to struggle with makeshift cooling measures set up after the disaster.
Exacerbating concerns about the perilous state of the Fukushima plant, plumes of steam have been rising from one of the reactor buildings. But where is the steam coming from and why?
Despite the election victory of Abe, who will have now a freer hand to pursue his pro-nuclear stance, the crisis around Fukushima is far from being resolved.
Greenpeace is calling on Abe to ensure TEPCO gets its act together and starts being honest with the Japanese people.
There is a strong anti-nuclear sentiment among the Japanese public and the country showed last summer that nuclear energy is unnecessary when there were no blackouts despite just two of its 50 nuclear reactors operating.
Renewable energy projects are also racing ahead in Japan as investors queue up to fund green energy projects, opening up the prospect of a safe and clean Energy [R]evolution.
Japanese society is at the crossroads and Greenpeace will continue to campaign for a halt to nuclear energy in Japan and is fully committed to overturning the government's current focus of profit over people and nature.
Japan and Abe, with his electoral mandate, could be leading the world towards a brighter, sustainable future. They still can – and we will hold them to account.
(Image: Satellite image showing damage at Japan's Fukushima 1 Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant after the March 11 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Source: DigitalGlobe)