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The ongoing political response to the disaster has been to erase those who had their lives disrupted by the disaster, put money into “recovery” projects that mainly benefit business ventures and focus on the Olympics as an international PR stunt.
Among the subtle tactics to promote the “recovery Olympics”, hydrogen from a plant in Namie, near Fukushima Daiichi is used to burn in the Olympic torches.(88) The aluminum used in the torches was recycled from aluminum window frames on temporary housing units.(89)
Japanese game organizers plan to use Fukushima grown food in the Olympic village dining halls as part of this PR plan.(90)
Evacuees and others impacted by the Fukushima disaster have taken issue with the Olympics and how they have been used to gloss over the long term problems still impacting the region. Many of these efforts by the government specifically use those impacted by the disaster as props for the Olympics.
“One participant protesting against the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, claimed that it was horrible that according to the current plan, the Olympic torch will pass through municipalities on the national route 6, that were heavily affected by the March 11 disaster.
Those are areas in which several high-level radiation hot spots are confirmed and are designated as difficult-to-return zones (kikan konnan kuiki) by the national government. When passing through the area, cars are not even allowed to open the windows. She pointed out that despite this, the torch relay will be run by local junior and senior high school students. Furthermore, she objected to an optimistic comment aired by the state-run NHK television that people living near national route 6 wanted the world to know about Fukushima’s recovery as the children run the torch relay.”(91)
Areas along route 6 include locations that have been reopened, but only enough to accommodate the torch route. Futaba only opened a 1.5 square mile area to brief visits as mentioned previously. The region is still subject to microparticles of nuclear fuel in the soil. Town centers and roads have been decontaminated but many areas have not or cannot be, causing re-contamination risks and the potential for microparticles to be found again in the air and soil.
There has been an ongoing political spat between South Korea in Japan with historic roots. Newer incarnations of this political tension around trade restrictions blew up into a fight over the Olympics. As Japan angered South Korea they retaliated by bringing up all of these issues around the Olympics. The use of venues and products from Fukushima without any proof of safety and other issues angered South Korea.(92)
Japan later lodged an official complaint with South Korea over posters installed around the site of the new Japanese embassy in Seoul. The posters depicted the Tokyo 2020 Olympics with participants in radiation suits, an obvious swipe at the Fukushima disaster.(93)
With the nuclear industry in Japan largely idled, a huge scandal still managed to erupt. Kansai Electric, owner of numerous nuclear plants in western Japan, was caught in a bribery scandal. The now retired deputy mayor of Takahama handed out over $3 million dollars in cash bribes and gifts to power company employees. When executives at Kansai Electric found out about the bribery, they did nothing, many of the recipients continued to be promoted within the company. The bribery was kept mum until the press broke the story. It didn’t just ensnare power company employees, members of the ruling LDP political party received questionable donations from the construction company involved in the scandal. (94)
If you thought Japan’s government learned anything from the 2011 disaster and would handle the Olympics in a better manner, think again. As the coronavirus outbreak caused a cruise ship to be “quarantined” in Yokohama harbor in February, the government has actively made things worse at every turn.
Passengers and crew members had been falling ill day after day while not allowed to leave the ship. Criticism about how this was handled and the obvious reality that the ship conditions were causing infection transmission ran for weeks. The government eventually gave up on their attempted quarantine, briefly considered releasing all of the possibly infected passengers before opting to have them evacuated to their home countries for proper quarantine. At one point the cruise ship was the largest source of coronavirus infections outside of China. (95)
The Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPCO), an offshoot of the nuclear power industry in Japan, was caught in a data falsification scandal that could have had disastrous results. The company is jointly owned by Japan’s electric utilities that also own nuclear power plants. As part of an effort to restart the Tsuruga nuclear power plant, JAPCO deleted and rewrote data in an attempt to prove the
earthquake fault that runs under the nuclear plant is not active. Japan’s nuclear regulator (NRA) had already determined the fault to be active. When caught, JAPCO tried to claim the falsification was merely an error. An active earthquake fault under a nuclear power plant’s critical buildings is considered
grounds for a permanent shut down.(96)
Photo of the Diamond Princess: DW
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