News / Asia

Skepticism Greets Reported Progress at Crippled Japanese Nuclear Plant

Installation work is carried out on a roof at unit 3 turbine building at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima prefecture in Japan, July 18, 2011
Installation work is carried out on a roof at unit 3 turbine building at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima prefecture in Japan, July 18, 2011

Japanese government agencies and the owner of a crippled nuclear power plant say the crisis is being brought under control. Some in Japan are less certain, however, in part because details remain vague about what has been accomplished and the next steps.

Japanese authorities say the second phase of their plan to bring the Fukushima nuclear power plant under control has begun. Goshi Hosono is the special state minister in charge of the four-month-old crisis.

"I assure you that although the progress has been sometimes slow, we are now on the right track toward restoring the situation from the accident," said Hosono.

Questioning progress

But the environmental group Greenpeace has doubts. It says the utility and the government have failed to meet several objectives.

The group says formal deadlines have been rushed. It also maintains that while authorities say the situation with the crippled reactors is stable, in reality it could be decades before the crisis ends.

At a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, reporters repeatedly asked why no cumulative figures on radiation emissions from the crippled plant has been released.

Quantifying radiation levels

An official with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said another government entity now responsible for such reports probably is finding it difficult to "back calculate" the total radiation released because the density levels in the surrounding area in the last few months are so much lower.

Officials say radiation emissions from the plant are one-two millionth of the peak shortly after an earthquake and tsunami battered the nuclear plant on March 11. But Tokyo Electric executive vice president Zengo Aizawa acknowledged a lack of accurate cumulative data.

Aizawa said the damage at the nuclear plant made precise monitoring difficult, but now that the rubble is being cleared away, accurate measurements again can be made, and the data will be compiled and released on a regular, but yet undetermined, basis.

Three of the six reactors at the plant melted down after the disaster. Explosions damaged the building housing at a fourth.

Cold shutdowns, contaminated beef

Authorities expect to begin cold shutdowns of the crippled reactors in about six months. Critics say the government and the utility, though, use a more liberal definition of a cold shutdown compared with the general consensus of the nuclear industry and the scientific community.

High radiation levels forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of households. Crops, milk, seafood and fish near the Fukushima plant were contaminated by fallout. Beef from more than 1,000 cows, which ate feed contaminated with radioactive cesium, was shipped across the country. Some of the meat ended up being sold at supermarkets, served to children at nursery schools and to passengers on Japan's bullet trains.

Energy conservation

The Fukushima disaster and recent shutdowns of other nuclear plants prompted energy conservation measures in the eastern part of the country, including the capital, Tokyo.

Concern has now spread to Osaka, Japan's second largest metropolitan area. The government on Wednesday announced that because of problems with another nuclear reactor and a coal-fired power plant, customers there will be asked to curtail electrical use by more than 10 percent through late September.

A central bank top official has warned of possible economic damage, saying that power shortage casts a shadow on Japan's long-term growth prospects.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steve Herman is VOA's Southeast Asia Bureau Chief and Correspondent, based in Bangkok.

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs