Fukushima Reality Challenges Abe’s Olympic Folly

1209424_514992775260999_2021432829_nJapan PM Abe made this rather outrageous statement to the press this week as questions piled up about the Tokyo Olympics bid. The response below was to questions about the risk the Fukushima disaster puts on any potential games in Tokyo.

“Abe told reporters at his official residence. “I will explain carefully that we are doing our utmost with a firm resolve and that in 2020, seven years from now, there will be absolutely no problem.”

Both Abe and the head of the Tokyo bid for the games Tsunekazu Takeda gave repeated vague assurances to the press that the disaster in Fukushima is a non issue without providing any hard evidence to back up their claims. The Japanese central government recently gave METI a bigger role in the disaster response. Other than some partial money being allocated towards the frozen wall, no other actual change has been made so far. What has been done only happened after it became impossible to deny any longer that Fukushima was leaking into the sea. It was only going to get worse and TEPCO had thrown their hands up in frustration.

Takeda made these comments to the press Wednesday:

Asked whether he is more concerned privately than he is letting on publicly, Takeda said, “I sent a letter to IOC members, I think last week, and I mentioned Fukushima. Now, Tokyo is very safe. The water, the seafood and also the radiation is absolutely safe. Our prime minister, Mr. (Shinzo) Abe, officially announced the government’s response for this problem and already started the project.

Tokyo had only taken any action as they realized it was going to ruin their other political plans for reactor restarts and the Olympic bid. Most of what has been done so far has been hollow political posturing. The ongoing risks at Fukushima are far beyond the water leaks. The fuel removal and building instability both pose a considerable risk to a wide swath of Japan and will until the site is fully defueled and dismantled. Adding to this complexity is that Japan, both TEPCO and the government have completely failed to find the locations of the melted fuel. This doesn’t just complicate the decommissioning of the reactors, it leaves a huge unknown in terms or future problems or leaks at the plant. Experts have cited again and again the very tenuous and still risky situation at the plant. The plans for dealing with the disaster at Fukushima are all very unpredictable and untested.

Government paralysis has already impacted their plan as they failed to allocate the money needed to replace the dangerous leaking tanks at the plant, something they considered a priority. Technologies like the frozen wall, considered a magic bullet by the government has only been used on a temporary basis in construction projects before and not on such a wide scale. Problems could still arise and they may not be solvable. The government also plans to fund a new water treatment system. It is not clear if they intend to do so from the ground up or to try to fix the ALPS treatment system that has failed to complete testing. There is still no solution for the large amounts of tritium found in the water at the plant. It is impossible to give any future assurances about the status of the plant or the water leak situation with so many unknowns.

Activists have also shown that the government claims that Tokyo is “unaffected” by radiation from the Fukushima disaster are untrue. From The Hindu

In Tokyo, a civic group measured radiation levels at 37 sites planned for the 2020 Games. At many of the sites, the group detected higher levels of radiation than before the 2011 disaster, and also found radioactive caesium, which was almost absent before, at a soccer stadium 30 kilometres north of the capital. “Whether you support Tokyo’s Olympics bid or not, we have a moral responsibility to show the international community facts about radiation contamination in Tokyo,” Takehiko Tsukushi, a member of the group, said.”

The government and major media outlets have downplayed the recent crisis, while highlighting the victories of Japanese athletes at the 2012 London Games, according to Setsuko Kuroda, a member of No Nukes Fukushima Women. “There is no time for the Olympics,” Kuroda said. “If Japan can afford to hold the Olympic Games, the government should spend that money to evacuate children from Fukushima immediately.” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the world would be “closely watching” how Japan handles the Fukushima nuclear crisis.”

This brings up another very relevant issue as the Japan central government has not done certain decontamination work citing costs. People remain in temporary trailers with no hope of going home soon or being fully compensated so they can move elsewhere. Children still live and attend school in locations higher than international standards consider safe. The people in Fukushima have been practically forgotten as the government has spent years mostly ignoring the disaster in Fukushima. It is easy to see why people are outraged at the Tokyo bid for the games.

In the efforts by the Japanese contingent to explain away the Fukushima disaster they insisted that seafood was safe, only a few weeks ago all fishing off the Fukushima region was suspended indefinitely. The government intervention level of 100 bq/kg while forced upon the people in Japan may not be acceptable to an international public who are not stuck living with such a problem. Many in Japan find the government level unacceptable and seek safer seafood.

The world press does not appear to be buying Japan’s “don’t worry trust us” explanations for the risk the Fukushima disaster puts on the potential games. This is after all the same government that told the world there were no meltdowns at Fukushima for months after they happened. Both quotes via NHK
A British journalist said Tokyo officials only emphasize the city’s safety but had still not answered the question. The reporter called it a grave problem that should be taken more seriously.
An American journalist expressed dissatisfaction with the answer and said the question will be asked repeatedly.”

This from JapanTimes:
“They’re not dealing with the issue,” said Duncan Mackay, founder and publisher of insidethegames, a publication that features in-depth analyses of all things Olympic. “The issue isn’t whether the (radiation) situation is the same as London, New York or Paris. London, Paris and New York aren’t bidding for the games. Tokyo is. The perception internationally and among some IOC members is that Fukushima is an issue.”

If Japan were to manage to get the games Abe would very likely be forced to eat his words. But would he even be in office in seven years?

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