Twitter and Japanese blogs have been filled with indignant posts over the past few days about the way Japan’s Olympic committee president Tsunekazu Takeda reassured international media on Sept. 4 that Tokyo was safe from the radioactive-water problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, since the two locations are far apart — indeed, “almost 250 kilometers apart.” The suggestion, some area residents pointed out, is that Fukushima might be contaminated, but it doesn’t really matter to the capital.
“Are you thinking about the people of Fukushima!!” tweeted a self-described resident of northeastern Japan with the handle Harubaru on Sept. 6.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s last-minute appeal to the International Olympic Committee that the “situation is under control” at the crippled nuclear plant was also met with skepticism by some on the ground.
“Prime Minister Abe isn’t a specialist in nuclear disasters, or a specialist in environmental impacts,” tweeted a Fukushima Daiichi worker who calls himself TS-san and often posts items on the dangers workers face at the site.
The tweets reflect the despair and neglect felt by some near the crippled plant, where operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.9501.TO -1.16% has been struggling to contain radioactive contamination since the triple meltdowns in March 2011.
Recent discoveries of rising contamination in groundwater, as well as leaks of highly radioactive water from storage tanks on the site, have renewed health worries of Fukushima residents, and sparked global concern that Tepco and the government don’t have the site under control. Members of the IOC cited the effectiveness of Mr. Abe and others in calming that concern when explaining their choice of Tokyo as a fit venue for the 2020 Olympics.
Now that Tokyo has won, will the pressure of hosting the Olympics be good for the effort to cleanup Fukushima Daiichi?
Although some observers say the international scrutiny that will accompany the Olympics preparation will make Tepco and others clean up their act, others are afraid it’ll just result in more pressure on workers, with no greater resources to handle it. Some of the most skeptical tweets have been from disillusioned workers at Fukushima Daiichi itself.
“Mr. Abe, in order to bring the Olympics, are you planning to shove aside Fukushima?” tweeted a self-described Fukushima Daiichi worker with the handle Toden George, on Sept. 7. “What about the cost of cleanup and plant decommissioning?”
TS-san chimed in on Sept. 8: “I promise that the Olympics will probably — no, definitely — have the worst possible impact on the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning.”