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2011年4月 9日 (土)

原発震災 中長期の見通しも示せ

(Mainichi Japan) April 8, 2011
Clear outlook for nuclear crisis necessary for residents to move on with their lives
社説:原発震災 中長期の見通しも示せ

There appears to be no immediate end in sight for the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Never before in history has a nuclear accident dragged on for so long, leading the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) of Japan to say that the crisis has "surpassed the range and magnitude anticipated under pre-existing disaster-prevention schemes."

Both Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the government are now at a point where they must devise and implement measures that take mid- to long-term prospects into consideration. In doing so, they must consider carefully the lives of the many people who have evacuated from communities located close to the power plant.

Workers on site have their hands full trying to deal with radiation-tainted water and injecting nitrogen into the No. 1 reactor to stave off an explosion in the reactor containment vessel. Such measures, however, aim to subdue what can be characterized as "side effects" that get in the way of attempts to deal with the primary problem.

Meanwhile, the real first step in bringing the crisis under control requires cooling the reactors down to stabilize temperatures, and stopping the leakage of radioactive materials.

To achieve this, a closed system that removes the heat in the reactors without relying on the injection of water from an external source must be established. Ordinarily, the residual-heat-removal system installed in the reactors would carry out this task, but radiation leaks have frustrated efforts to restore the system. As such, the situation calls for discussions on possibly instituting a new heat-removal system.

Regardless of the cooling method, it will not be an easy job, and may take longer than the "several months" the government has predicted for a resolution.

Even after progress is made in this first step, we are still faced with the task of cooling spent nuclear fuel for years to come. Beyond that, moreover, lies the problem of how the reactors will be decommissioned.

As we find ourselves only at the beginning of a long road ahead, the government's emergency measures are no longer relevant to the current state of affairs.

For example, because the government's advisory for residents living between a 20-kilometer and a 30-kilometer radius from the Fukushima power station was not issued with the intention of lasting for months, it is only natural that the government is now deliberating a new plan of action. The government must make a prompt decision -- that should then be thoroughly explained to residents -- and provide ongoing support for those who are affected.

Some residents who evacuated from homes within a 20-kilometer radius are seeking permission to return temporarily, an understandable request from people who escaped with just the clothes on their back after being hit with the triple punch of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. We hope that all safety precautions are taken to grant their wish.

In addition, local residents need to be given a mid- to long-term outlook: Will they be able to return permanently to their homes in several months' time, or will it take years? Will some residents have to prepare themselves for the possibility that they will never be able to return?

We understand that such forecasts are difficult to make, as they are contingent upon whether or not the situation worsens, and how restoration efforts progress.

Still, unless both TEPCO and the government release forecasts that account for a margin of error, people cannot move on with their lives or plan for the future. It must not be forgotten that ambiguity -- and not bad news -- can at times deliver a stronger blow on morale.

毎日新聞 2011年4月8日 2時41分


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