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

    Video Twists and Turns Aplenty in US Presidential Race

    Even as Americans pause for this week’s Memorial Day holiday, much attention is focused on the presidential contest

    Iran Orders Social Media Sites to Store Data Inside Country

    New requirements are expected to affect the instant messaging app Telegram, which has more than 20 million users inside Iran

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora