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2011年4月 7日 (木)


--The Asahi Shimbun, April 6
EDITORIAL: Kan owes world explanation for pumping radioactive water in sea

The government's decision to pump radioactive water out of the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean was far too grave to be explained simply as "unavoidable."

We saw little indication of the administration's dilemma over it. Moreover, the administration did an appallingly sloppy job of explaining its decision to the nation as well as the rest of the world.

Work has begun at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to pump out low-level radioactive water into the ocean. The stated purpose of this exercise is to "prevent greater damage" by getting rid of low-level radioactive water to secure space for storage and containment of high-level radioactive water at the plant.
But under normal circumstances, resorting to such a measure would be simply out of the question.

Tokyo condemned Moscow in the past, when Russia dumped into the Sea of Japan low-level nuclear waste generated at a nuclear submarine base.

And Japan supported the revision of the "London Convention," which was aimed at preventing maritime pollution and the dumping of waste, and later amended to include low-radioactive waste in the list of banned substances.

This is all the more reason why the Japanese government definitely owes the international community a detailed explanation of how it reached its latest decision and what further measures it intends to take.

Japan has deeply offended its neighbor, South Korea, by not consulting with it beforehand.

But more to the point, the government was too insensitive to the international community's growing concerns about the unfolding nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan and others should have called an immediate news conference and explained in detail the circumstances and the reasons that led to the decision.

With any hope of an early containment of the nuclear crisis now gone, the Kan administration's crisis management ability is being severely tested.

The prime minister's job is to expect every contingency, double- and triple-check the soundness of his plans, provide speedy and accurate information to the nation and the rest of the world, and establish a comprehensive strategy to ensure that all available resources are put to effective use.

Reportedly, the idea of pumping contaminated water from the Fukushina plant into the ocean was suggested by Tokyo Electric Power Co., and the government decided to proceed with it after consulting the Nuclear Safety Commission.

Was the final decision reached after every possible option had been examined thoroughly? The nuclear emergency response headquarters is headed by Kan, and the government and TEPCO have formed an ad hoc joint headquarters to deal with the crisis. Did all the members concerned share and examine carefully their expert opinions?

The opinions of on-site personnel matter a lot, but our impression is that the government took a back seat even though it is ultimately responsible for a decision of this magnitude. From what we understand, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano left it to TEPCO to provide a detailed plan of action, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which overseas the fishing industry, was left completely out of the loop.

And the support system of nuclear experts to assist the administration is not adquate. Besides government organs, there should also be businesses, universities and public research institutes--such as the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences--participating actively in a comprehensive support system.

But the Nuclear Safety Commission should still occupy center stage. The commission's presence has been dimmed since the accident at the Fukushima plant, but it must live up to its intended role as the nation's nuclear safety watchdog.


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