Fukushima nuclear shutdown: 'No progress is being made'

The Japanese government says that troubled nuclear plant Fukushima is under control. But an undercover journalist suggests that no progress is being made towards recovery.
Written by Hana Stewart-Smith, Contributor on

The Japanese government announced publicly today that the troubled Fukushima plant is now under control, having achieved a 'cold shutdown'.

Takashi Sawada, vice chairman Japan's nuclear safety authority, stressed that this does not necessarily indicate that all four reactors are safe but that the plant is in a stable condition.

Nine months after the disastrous Tohoku quake, regulators and rescue workers may finally be getting the very serious meltdown at Fukushima under control.

This is reassuring news for the public after the reactor sprung a leak earlier this month, pouring out an estimated 45 tonnes of radioactive water, which may have reached the sea.

After that setback, it is important to reassure public opinion with some significant progress towards fixing the reactor.

However, freelance journalist Tomohiko Suzuki, who worked undercover at Fukushima for over a month, disputed this news.

(Fukishima from above -- Source: CBS News)

Suzuki spoke to reporters at a Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan conference yesterday, telling a very different story to the one officially given by the Government.

"Absolutely no progress is being made", he said.

Claiming to have taken pictures of the site via a pinhole camera in his watch, Suzuki documented "many problems stemming from the shoddy, rushed work at the power plant".

He alleges that companies including Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) are not adequately caring for workers on the site, claiming that they are cutting corners in both the repair of the plant and the welfare of the public.

"(Nuclear) technology experts I've spoken to say that there are people living in areas where no one should be," he stated. He suggests that the evacuation zones have not been sufficient and that the 80-kilometer evacuation radius recommended by the U.S. government would have been "about right."

He added that the Government was likely avoiding the huge task of evacuating major cities like Iwaki and Fukushima.

Suzuki's comments on the major companies involved also suggest a lack of co-ordination in the clear-up operation.

"Reactor makers Toshiba and Hitachi each have their own technology, and they don't talk to each other. Toshiba doesn't tell Hitachi what it's doing, Hitachi doesn't tell Toshiba what it's doing".

He also expressed concern for those working to recover the plant. He said: "Working at Fukushima is equivalent to being given an order to die".

Until Suzuki's evidence is thoroughly verified it is hard to say how truthful his claims are.

The timing of the Government's announcement of the 'cold shutdown' coincides directly with Suzuki's statement, which presents a confusing, contradictory message for the Japanese public.

Although the Government's statement should help to assuage concerns about the reactor, they could be severely harmed by these allegations.


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