Foreign Policy Blogs

Nuclear crisis: End in sight?

Tokyo Electric Power Co. released a blueprint Monday for ending the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. TEPCO will first focus on cooling the reactors and spent fuel pools, reducing radiation leaks and decontaminating water that has become radioactive. The first step is estimated to take three months. The second step is to bring the release of radioactive materials fully under control, achieve a cold shutdown of the reactors and cover the buildings. This is expected to take six to nine months.

The plan was largely derided by lawmakers and the public. For residents of Fukushima, six to nine months is a long time to be homeless.

I have discussed before whether it is even worth rebuilding in the affected areas, since many of the towns were dying villages from which most of the young people had left to seek work in cities like Sendai or Tokyo. A new statistic says that over half of the earthquake/tsunami victims were 65 or older. Considering that Japan is the “grayest” society in the history of the world, with a median age of 44.8 and 22.9 percent of the population 65 or older, this isn’t particularly surprising. (The global median age is 28.4, with 7.9 percent 65 or older.) Some commentators mentioned the disaster claimed more elderly victims because they would have had trouble fleeing to higher ground, but I think the reason also has a lot to do with the demographics of the affected areas. Local governments will face a dilemma of rebuilding villages that were already dying, or finding alternative areas for evacuees to live.

The government and TEPCO are under fire from the public and the opposition lawmakers for their handling of the nuclear crisis. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and TEPCO’s president, Masataka Shimizu, were heckled at the Diet Monday. This is nothing new. Sessions at the Diet often resemble childish shouting matches. While the Democratic Party of Japan and the opposition Liberal Democratic Party seemed to set aside their partisan squabbles briefly in the aftermath of the earthquake in a spirit of working for the greater good, they have now apparently returned to their norm, with LDP lawmakers resorting to their usual obstruction tactics of shouting down DPJ lawmakers.

Masashi Waki, an LDP lawmaker, shouted at Kan Monday, “You should be bowing your head in apology. You clearly have no leadership at all.”

An Associated Press article noted, “TEPCO’s president, Masataka Shimizu, looked visibly ill at ease as lawmakers heckled and taunted him.” He probably looked visibly ill because he has spent much of the last month in the hospital due to high blood pressure.

Shimizu said, “I again deeply apologize for causing so much trouble for residents near the complex, people in Fukushima and the public.”

My prediction is that Shimizu will resign (and possibly commit suicide, although I hate to think that) in apology for TEPCO’s bungling of the disaster, in which case he will be replaced by another inept official, and TEPCO will learn nothing from this experience.



Dustin Dye

Dustin Dye is the author of the YAKUZA DYNASTY series, available through the Amazon Kindle.

He lived in Okayama, Japan, where he taught English at a junior high school through the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program for three years. He is a graduate from the University of Kansas, where he received a bachelor's degree in anthropology.

His interest in Japan began in elementary school after seeing Godzilla fight Ghidorah, the three-headed monster. But it wasn't until he discovered Akira Kurosawa's films through their spaghetti Western remakes that he truly became fascinated in the people and culture of Japan.

He lives in Kansas with his wife, daughter and guinea pig.

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E-mail him: [email protected]