Monday, 14 March 2011

Damage Control

The biggest fear in Fukushima, Japan is if there will be a meltdown at the nuclear reactor there and people are either trying to get out or prepare themselves... somehow.

Japan has 55 nuclear power plants, more than any other country besides the United States and France.

While survivors are trying to pick up the pieces after the 8.9-magnitude earthquake on Friday, the Japanese people's greatest concern is not trusting the authorities to tell them everything they know.

"We need them to be more honest," said Kuni, 63, who declined to give his first name. "They may be telling the truth. They may not. We really don't know."

Ken Sasaki, 40, a construction ministry official, said the television images of the reactor building's top blown off didn't lead to great confidence.

"Personally, nuclear power makes me a bit nervous," he said. "But as a nation, I think we still need it."

While the government has issued evacuation orders for a 20-kilometre radius around the complex that affects around 180,000 people, the locals also don't trust Tepco, the company that runs the nuclear power plant.

Tepco hasn't had a good reputation of being forthcoming about nuclear safety issues.

In 2003, all 17 of its nuclear plants were shut down temporarily after a scandal over falsified safety-inspection reports.

Three years later it ran into trouble again when it emerged that coolant water data at two plants had been falsified in the 1990s.

There are also concerns about the safety of many of the country's nuclear plants as many of them date back to the 1970s and 1980s.

"I have been warning about Japan's possibility of a genpatsu shinsai -- a nuclear disaster," said Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist and professor emeritus at Kobe University. He said Fukushima was only one of a number of nuclear facilities in seismically unsafe areas.

It's really interesting to observe that even the Japanese, who many of us have an impression are dutiful citizens and obey their leaders, doubt the government is telling them the truth.

The situation with the nuclear plant at Fukushima reveals the lack of distrust -- something that would be practically normal in China, and would definitely have raised eyebrows and probably even protests in Hong Kong.

It looks like Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan and his government have major tasks to do -- not only to get this disaster under control, but also rebuild its credibility.

And despite the horrific images of destruction on television, it seems the latter is even more critical right now.

1 comment:

  1. hope it will not become another chernobyl.