SCOTT BEVAN: In Japan, there are reports that prosecutors will lay no charges over the Fukushima nuclear disaster, two-and-a-half years ago.
Now that’s despite a parliamentary committee finding that the meltdowns of three of the plant’s reactors constituted a ‘manmade’ disaster.
Mark Willacy is the ABC’s North Asia correspondent, and I spoke with him a little earlier from Tokyo.
Mark Willacy, what are these reports saying?
MARK WILLACY: Well, it’s got the reports are saying that prosecutors were investigating whether to charge about 10 people. That includes the then prime minister Naoto Kan, the two top bosses of the operator of the plant TEPCO as well as senior officials from Japan’s nuclear watchdog, but it appears now that there will be no charges because the reports are saying prosecutors found it just too difficult to come up with a case.
They say it was basically too difficult for anyone to predict a tsunami of that size would hit the plant so that will disappoint the people who sought criminal charges over this disaster and many of those people were people who lost their homes and livelihoods to the radioactive fallout from Fukushima.
SCOTT BEVAN: So this the end of the matter?
MARK WILLACY: Well, there is a prosecution review commission which can overturn this decision theoretically and could recommend charges but that is a very remote possibility so for now no charges and TEPCO of course will continue to lead the crisis management at the Fukushima plant which as we’ve seen in the last few weeks has been quite haphazard. We’ve seen contaminated water leaks into the ocean; we’ve seen a mystery steam rising form reactor three, and a few months ago we saw power outages at several pools cooling thousands of spent fuel rods.
So no, it is not the end of the matter from a crisis management point of view, but it looks like it is the end of the matter when it comes to criminal charges against anyone.
SCOTT BEVAN: And Mark, you’ve just returned from Fukushima. For you who knows that area so well now having written about it, reported about it, what was it like to return? What’s changed, what’s stayed the same?
MARK WILLACY: Well, I went up to talk to some nuclear workers, some people who work at the Fukushima plant and they had to talk to me very secretly because if they talked to the media they’ll be fired and I have to tell you what they had to tell me was very, very pessimistic.
You know, it’s a case of low morale amongst workers up there. They’re battling to try and plug these leaks of radioactive water into the ocean.
That isn’t going very well they tell me.
And they’re also telling me about the pay that they’re receiving. Some of them are receiving absolutely no danger money and one man was saying some of the lowest paid workers there are receiving about the equivalent of $8 Australian an hour to work 12 hour shifts at the Fukushima plant, so I’d say it is a fairly low morale at the moment and also, you know, we’re looking at a clean up there and decommissioning of the plant that’s going to take, we believe, at least 40 years.
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