OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Wearing a protective suit to guard against radioactive contamination, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe entered the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Thursday to inspect the desperate effort to stop tainted water from entering the soil and the Pacific.
Abe visited the site in an apparent publicity stunt to demonstrate his determination to get the water crisis under control. An estimated 300 tons of contaminated groundwater is believed to be flowing into the ocean every day, and experts say the more than 1,000 storage tanks overlooking the site pose an even greater hazard.
Abe’s visit followed controversial remarks he made on the water situation at Fukushima No. 1 during Tokyo’s bid to win the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Buenos Aires. During Tokyo’s final pitch to the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 7, Abe declared that “the situation (at the Fukushima plant) is under control” and “effects from the contaminated water have been perfectly blocked within the (artificial) bay” next to the wrecked nuclear complex.
Despite Abe’s assurances, Tepco has not been able to control the contaminated groundwater seeping into the sea nor the storage tank leaks that have cropped up in the past two months since the election.
“During the presentation for the Olympic Games, Prime Minister Abe told a lie,” Teruhiko Mashiko, an Upper House member and vice president of the Democratic Party of Japan, said during a recent interview in Tokyo.
Mashiko claimed that last spring that a local tank manufacturer warned that the tanks were of very bad quality and could suffer leaks within two years of construction.
According to Mashiko, the manufacturer was asked to build six low-cost tanks and take no more than a month to do it.
“The company turned down the offer because they only would have ended up constructing low-quality tanks under (bad) contract conditions,” Mashiko said.
At recent news conferences in Tokyo, Tepco executive and spokesman Masayuki Ono has repeatedly refused to comment on Mashiko’s account or reveal details of the contracts with construction companies to build the Fukushima water tanks.Ono would only say that Tepco won’t disclose information on “contracts between private companies.”
But many industry sources suspect that Tepco, short on money, may have bought low-quality tanks to reduce the ballooning costs of trying to clean up the shattered facility.