Ignoring an emergency

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Ignoring an emergency

The Japanese parliament decided to put off a review of the widening problem of leakage of contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor complex. The stalling is believed to be part of concerted efforts to play down negative publicity from parliamentary questioning of the severity of contamination and the poor government response to prevent and combat the disaster ahead of a Sept. 7 vote by the International Olympic Committee deciding the host city for the 2020 Summer Games. Tokyo is competing strongly against Istanbul and Madrid for the games.

In a recent meeting, the Economy, Trade and Industry Committee in the Lower House decided to hold off a session on the radiation crisis until mid-September on the pretext that it wants to wait and see the government measures to be announced this week to combat the problem. But in the eyes of people at home and overseas, the move seems like a ploy to cover up a looming danger to public safety to win the hosting of the Olympic Games.

Leakage of contaminated water from radioactive waste tanks is worsening. High radiation levels were detected at four new locations near the storage tanks. They are different from the tanks that authorities confirmed last month, which were leaking about 300 tons of contaminated water.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. discovered high radiation readings at the bottom of tanks and a pipe in a separate area, showing measurements as high as 1,800 millisieverts per hour - an amount that could kill someone exposed to it for about four hours. Tritium concentrations in underground waters near the waste tanks spiked up to 15 times more than the level six months ago.

The underground walls to stop highly toxic waters from flowing into the ocean have been proven useless as at least 300 tons of irradiated water are pouring into the Pacific Ocean every day. To make matters worse, authorities are rapidly running out of space to store highly radioactive waters that have been used to cool the reactors. About 1,000 tanks have been built around the complex, but some already have been leaking from their bottoms.

Leakage of radiation is not Japan’s problem alone as it can affect the maritime environment and ecosystem worldwide. Japan is running against time. It should be fighting around the clock to combat and control the nuclear crisis instead of concentrating national energy and focusing on a bid for Olympic Games. We advise the Tokyo government to set its national priorities straight and concentrate on the greater emergency. It has to remember that the world’s priorities are more important than its own.
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