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Asia

Crisis averted, now back to work

Despite the news from Tuesday, April 19, that a complete meltdown is now nothing to fear, concern remains over the situation at Fukushima’s damaged Daiichi nuclear power plant.

TEPCO has been releasing images of the disaster after the company was criticized for its lack of transparency

TEPCO has been releasing images of the disaster after the company was criticized for its lack of transparency

Clean up is progressing slowly but surely in the coastal areas of Japan that were hit by the earthquake and ensuing tsunami mid March. Despite the news from Tuesday, April 19, that a complete meltdown is now nothing to fear, concern remains over the situation at Fukushima’s damaged Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Robots delivered disturbing and blurred pictures from the inside of Daiichi’s number 2 reactor. With temperatures around 40 degrees Celsius, 99 percent humidity and high radiation, it is difficult to imagine that people are working in there.

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, right, eats Japanese fruit to prove its safety

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, right, eats Japanese fruit to prove its safety

It is difficult to tell how the Japanese people are taking the news that a complete meltdown is no longer to fear – it is hard to tell whether or not they trust and believe the plant’s operator, TEPCO, when it says it is working hard to get the problem under control. Though there have been demonstrations, there have not been any mass protests against nuclear energy in Japan, as the majority is still for it.

Duck and cover

On the surface, many parts of Japan seem unaffected by Fukushima. But since the disaster, earthquake preparation drills, in which people learn to take cover under tables, are being carried out more frequently. And even utility companies that were not directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 have learned their lesson. Nuclear power plants throughout the country are carrying out power outage drills to practice what to do in case cooling systems fail.

A radio-controlled PakBot robot advances inside the reactor building of Unit 1 at the Daiichi plant

A radio-controlled PakBot robot advances inside the reactor building of Unit 1 at the Daiichi plant

Governor Hirohiko Izumida of the Niigata Prefecture says he is worried about a further plant operated by TEPCO in his prefecture. "There are contradictions to what is happening in Fukushima and how we are trained and prepared to handle such a nuclear disaster."

Izumida believes new emergency plans should be drawn up. In the case of a nuclear disaster, the plans had originally called for an evacuation zone of 10 kilometers. But Fukushima has shown that a 30-kilometer evacuation zone was necessary.

While work is slowly advancing at the Daiichi power plant, there is great progress being made in other areas destroyed by the tsunami. The port of Sendai had been almost completely destroyed, now it is up and running again, and the railway, which had been washed away, is also almost ready for operation. A construction worker working on the railway reports, "All of the tracks have to be replaced. But we will be finished soon and the railway will be back in shape."

Getting back to normal

Thousands of power poles and power substations were destroyed by the tsunami. But work is on full force. Hundreds of technicians from all over Japan have been sent to the region to help. Within a just few days, 250 power poles have been restored. One foreman remarks, "We are working round the clock. Soon electricity will be fully restored."

Workers still search for bodies under the rubble left by the March 11 tsunami

Workers still search for bodies under the rubble left by the March 11 tsunami

But not all news is positive. One of Japan’s largest fish canneries has been destroyed. And now that there are further fishing restrictions due to radioactive contamination, the entire fisheries industry seems to have hit rock bottom. Though many of Japan’s fishermen have little hope of getting back on their feet, the Japanese Fisheries Agency is hopeful, saying, "We are doing everything to get things back to normal."

Author: Horst Kläuser (sb)
Editor: Ziphora Robina

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