Should the recent words of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe be seen as a renewed effort to take control of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, or a cynical ploy to insulate the nuclear industry and government from increasingly bad publicity amid the country's bid to host the upcoming Olympic games?
Abe stepped up his public relations blitz Thursday, visiting the destroyed plant and pledging that the nuclear crisis will not impact the safety of the 2020 Olympics.
"I will work hard to counter rumors questioning the safety of the Fukushima plant," Abe declared Thursday, an apparent allegation that the high-level TEPCO's official's claims are unfounded. He claimed that he has given orders to decommission all of the reactors that remain after the 2011 tsunami.
Abe's efforts come in the midst of new revelations that TEPCO vigorously—and successfully—lobbied against recommendations by nuclear experts to contain contaminated water in the immediate aftermath of the 2011 tsunami. The proposed mitigation measures—which included building a barrier to stem the flow of radioactivity into the groundwater—were shelved over fears they would harm investor confidence. Japanese authorities ultimately caved to TEPCO's pressure.
Yet, as the crisis continues to spiral, Japanese authorities recently announced plans to spend nearly $500 million in public money to build a giant 'wall of ice' surrounding the plant. Critics say this is just another example of how the public is being forced to pay for TEPCO's mishandling of the disaster.
Experts predict construction of the proposed barrier will take at least 2 years to complete, and there is no evidence that this will bring a long-term solution to the leaks of contaminated water, which is estimated at 300 tons per day.
Abe's new statements also appear to be an attempt to assure the public and Olympic committee after Kazuhiko Yamashita, an executive-level fellow for TEPCO, publicly admitted last week, "I’m sorry, but we consider the situation not under control."