Who is to blame for Fukushima? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 21.03.2011
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Who is to blame for Fukushima?

People are worried about the future of Japan's northeastern coast and want to know who is to blame for the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Peter Kujath believes the plant's operator is to blame.

Over 400,000 people will have to start anew and rebuild their lives

Over 400,000 people will have to start anew and rebuild their lives

The situation at Japan’s dilapidated Fukushima nuclear power plant appears to be stabilizing, thanks to the soldiers and Tokyo’s and Osaka’s fire departments who have been able to prevent a full-out disaster. They are the heroes who have had to risk their lives because of mismanagement. The plant’s operator, TEPCO, played down the problems at the plant as soon as they began. Apparently they had also been against using seawater to cool off the reactors, because they knew that after that, the plant would never again be able to be used.

Hours and even days were wasted because of the failure to act; the Japanese government continued to place trust in TEPCO, partly due to the fact that Tokio didn’t have any information of its own. Luckily, that has changed.

Of course, the plant’s engineers deserve a great deal of credit for getting sea water pumping into the reactors and managing to lay an electric cable to one of the reactors. But why did it have to take so long for that to happen? Because the decision makers were too hesitant.

The situation still isn’t completely under control. Readings of radioactivity near the nuclear power plant are high. This disaster will have an effect on the area and on the people inside and outside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone for years to come. Questions pertaining to the safety of garden-grown vegetables and tap water will have to be clarified year after year. Many people in Japan want to trust the experts and their statistics. But uncertainty is great.

Preliminary assessments have made it clear that nuclear power plants should be able to withstand even larger earthquakes than the one that recently took place off Japan’s coast. So was it a matter of bad management? Or was the plant just not prepared for the fatal tsunami after the earthquake? Now TEPCO will have to fess up and answer questions like these. Many have begun questioning the safety of Japan’s system of checks and balances while the voices speaking out against nuclear energy in Japan are growing louder by the day. But official plans for switching over to alternative forms of energy have only just begun.

Over 400,000 people lost their homes and possessions in the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. These people will have to start all over again. Japan’s northeastern coast had been relatively sparsely populated; most of the inhabitants there had been elderly farmers, as younger generations tended to leave and earn their money in Tokyo or in Osaka rather than in the fields. But now they are pouring back into the country side in search of their relatives and loved ones.

The emergency shelters are full beyond capacity, mainly with elderly people, who are facing freezing temperatures and a lack of food and water on top of the recent tragedy. Most are not physically able to rebuild their houses, let alone start whole new lives or help their communities flourish again. The younger generations generally have no intention of staying, regardless of whether they have had any luck finding living relatives or not. The first temporary homes are now being built and people will soon be able to move out of the shelters and into the homes. But it will be next to impossible to establish long-term settlements again, as the next challenge, radioactive contamination, is eminent.

Author: Peter Kujath (sb)
Editor: Ziphora Robina

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