The Japanese minister Goshi Hosono announced today that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the government have successfully completed phase 1 of the plan to bring the Fukushima nuclear crisis under control. Unfortunately, it seems we are witnessing another wishy-washy spin, while the urgently needed actions to protect citizens are not happening..
The Fukushima nuclear crisis is not under control. TEPCO and the government have failed to meet several of its own objectives by rushing to meet deadlines and give the impression of normality instead of accepting that this nuclear crisis will take decades to resolve. For example, see the ongoing problems with stabilising the reactors at Fukushima, continued leaks of contaminated water and failures of its clean up system. Even worse is the delivery against another objective - proper radiation measurement and transparency - where the action so far is completely inadequate, as we can most recently see at the contaminated cattle scandal.
Similarly, official measurement data suggests some leakages of contaminated water into both the ocean and ground that have been unreported by TEPCO, and thus the problem is larger than previously thought. Thus underlines the key problem, which is that while some isolated data are being published from some radiation monitoring posts, the public does not have a full picture at all about the levels of contamination of land and ocean, what are its risks and implications, and how people can reduce exposure.
Nothing is getting back to normal anytime soon. While TEPCO and the government are trying to tell us that things are or will be getting back to normal within a few months, the sad truth is that it will be decades before the reactors are dismantled, the deadly nuclear material inside them removed and properly stored, and the widely-spread radioactive contamination dissipates.
People continue to live in seriously contaminated places, such as Fukushima city, without proper information, support or advice. Turning a blind eye on this ticking bomb and insisting, against science and internationally accepted principles of radiological protection, that low levels of radiation are harmless is unjustifiable.
Much more immediate action from TEPCO and the government is needed. This includes stopping contaminated water from the damaged reactors leaking into both the ocean and soil. Full disclosure about leakages of contaminated water is urgently required, particularly in relation to the vital protection of people’s health and lives.
The Japanese government must focus on ensuring that people are properly protected from increased levels of radiation in contaminated areas, even in places lying well beyond current evacuation zones. People need to be given clear information and proper support to allow them either to evacuate or limit their exposure to radiation.
Sufficient and robust plans to deal with long term exposure to radiation and contamination from Fukushima are missing. Families with children or pregnant women need to be moved to safer places. Widespread, systematic and transparent farm produce and seafood monitoring must be set in motion to avoid further exposure from contaminated food, even in areas that seem far from the Fukushima reactors.
Until those measures are securely in place, any talk about satisfactory progress in containing the disaster is just an empty and misleading PR exercise.