Fukushima "under control"?

Jim Green

Chain Reaction #119, Nov 2013, www.foe.org.au/chain-reaction/editions/119

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on September 7 that the Fukushima situation − in particular the leakage of contaminated water from holding tanks and the constant flow of contaminated groundwater − was "under control".

However, Kazuhiko Yamashita, a senior official with Fukushima plant operator TEPCO, said the water leaks were not under control. "We regard the current situation as not being under control," he said. "Predictable risks are under control, but what cannot be predicted is happening."[1,2]

Shunichi Tanaka, chair of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), said on September 6 that TEPCO "has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination." He added: "This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it."[3]

Hiroaki Koide, an associate professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said: "I was flabbergasted by Abe's speech. The problem of contaminated water is far from being solved. This problem has been going on all the time since the reactors were destroyed. Contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean ever since."[4]

The situation in Fukushima "has never done or will do any damage to Tokyo," the Prime Minister said. But radioactive fallout and contaminated food and water are problems that have been felt in Tokyo and beyond. The Mayor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, publicly denounced the Prime Minister by saying that the problem of contaminated water leaks was "not necessarily under control" and that: "The government must acknowledge this as a national problem so that we can head toward a real solution."[5]

"The contaminated water has been contained in an area of the harbour only 0.3 square kilometres big," Prime Minister Abe said. No it hasn't. There is routine release of contaminated water, in part because the barrier between the 'contained' area and the ocean has openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.[6]

On July 10, the NRA said it "highly suspected" that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean. TEPCO acknowledged that fact on July 22.[7,8]

US experts urged Japanese authorities to take immediate steps to prevent groundwater contamination two years ago, but their advice was ignored. TEPCO reportedly lobbied against the proposed construction of a barrier – a measure that will now be taken with government funding – because of the high cost.[1]

Princess Takamado – daughter-in-law of the Japanese Emperor – told the IOC: "The Olympic bid has given the young people in the area affected something to dream for, the motivation to move forward with courage ... I know one of the IOC's most important aspects is the legacy a Games leaves. The IOC will certainly remain in the heart of these young people."[9]

Princess Takamado did not explain how newly-built sports stadiums in Tokyo would improve the lives of young people in Fukushima Prefecture, or the lives of the 160,000 evacuees from the nuclear disaster who remain dislocated.

Namie Resolution

The town assembly of nuclear disaster-hit Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, passed a resolution against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on September 20 for declaring the situation "under control." The Namie Town Assembly unanimously passed the resolution stating that there is a "serious problem" with Abe's remarks as they "contradict reality." The resolution states: "The situation has never been 'under control,' nor is the contaminated water 'completely blocked."[9,11]

Regarding Abe's claim that "there are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future," the Namie resolution pointed out that there had been 1,459 deaths related to the triple disasters in Fukushima Prefecture thus far. "We can't help but feel resentment against the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., both of which are disregarding Fukushima Prefecture," the resolution states.

Contaminated fish

Prime Minister Abe's comments to the IOC are contradicted by contaminated fish. Radioactivity levels have been dropping but contaminated fish exceeding safety limits are still being detected.[12]

Toshimitsu Konno, a fisherman in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, responded to the Prime Minister's comments to the IOC meeting: "He must be kidding. We have been tormented by radioactive water precisely because the nuclear plant has not been brought under control."[13]

As the string of scandals surrounding contaminated water unfolded, South Korea greatly expanded bans on fish imports on September 6. A ban on fish imports from Fukushima Prefecture was extended to a further seven prefectures.[14]

Fisheries vice-minister Son Jae-hak said that Japanese authorities had failed to provide timely and detailed information about the water leaks and that the ban would stay in place indefinitely. The fisheries ministry said the ban was necessary "as the government concluded that it is unclear how the incident in Japan will progress in the future and that the information the Japanese government has provided so far is not enough to predict future developments".[15] Among other countries, the US, China, Taiwan and Russia also have fish import bans in place.[16,17]


[1] Justin McCurry, 19 Sept 2013, 'Future of Japan depends on stopping Fukushima leaks, PM tells workers',


[2] TEPCO official denies Abe's claim that nuclear crisis is 'under control', 13 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,


[3] Reuters, 'Fukushima operator slammed', 6 Sept 2013,


[4] AFP, 'Fukushima far from solved, say Abe's Games critics', 10 Sept 2013,


[5] 'Tokyo mayor claims Japan PM lied about Fukushima',


[6] Reiji Yoshida, 10 Sept 2013, 'Abe's assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question', The Japan Times,


[7] www.salon.com/2013/08/23/how_everything_went_so_wrong_at_fukushima/singl...

[8] www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-26/tepco-president-apologizes-for-fukushi...

[9] Peter Lee, 27-29 Sept 2013, 'Did Japan Lie Its Way Into the Olympics?',


[11] 'Namie town assembly protests PM Abe's 'under control' comment', 21 Sept 2013,


[12] 'Radioactive cesium levels drop in Fukushima fish, but strontium remains a mystery', 25 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,


[13] 'Doubt cast on Abe's assurance to IOC about Fukushima leaks', 10 Sept 2013, Asahi Shimbun,


[14] John Hofilena, 30 Sept 2013, 'South Korean minister calls Japan 'immoral' for covering up Fukushima leaks',


[15] Justin McCurry, 7 Sept 2013, 'South Korea bans fish imports from Japan's Fukushima region', The Guardian,


[16] 'Int'l probe can address distrust in Japan's handling of Fukushima situation', 28 Sept 2013,


[17] 'Ban on Japanese fish remains in place due to Fukushima accident', 20 Sept 2013,


Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.