Watchman Newsletter

Japan Considers Entombing Nuclear Plant as Workers Fight to Stop Radiation

Bloomberg (Link) - Tomoko Yamazaki (March 30, 2011)

The mayor of a city neighboring the nuclear power plant devastated by Japan�s March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami criticized the central government for leaving him in the dark.

About 50,000 of Minami Soma�s 70,000 residents were evacuated after the magnitude-9.0 temblor and surge of water led to the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl. Tokyo Electric Power Co.�s Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant lies 25 kilometers (16 miles) south of the mayor�s office.

�The government tells us to be ready for further evacuation orders in case of a �worst-case scenario,� but I wonder what that suggests?� Katsunobu Sakurai said in a telephone interview. �We want to get on with rebuilding our city. We just don�t have the sort of information we need from the government.�

While essential services including water, gas and electricity are about 80 percent restored, the city remains in desperate need of food and gasoline, Sakurai said. As the government evacuated people within 20 kilometers of the plant and warned those within the next 10 kilometers to stay indoors, truck drivers stopped coming in with supplies.

�As if it wasn�t enough that we were struck by the disaster, people began treating us as if we were a highly contaminated city,� Sakurai, 55, said. Lack of fuel meant �we have to walk all the way to the edge of the evacuation zone to pick up supplies.�

About 80 percent of the city is within the 30-kilometer zone, he said.

Evacuation Zone

Residents evacuated from a 20-kilometer radius of the plant shouldn�t return home, chief government spokesman Yukio Edano said, citing safety risks. Some people had gone back to pick up belongings, he said.

Repairs at the Dai-Ichi power plant have been hampered by explosions, fires and radiation leaks, forcing work to be suspended. Three workers were exposed to radiation on March 24 after stepping in water at one of the six units.

The number of dead and missing from the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and subsequent aftershocks had reached 27,593 as of 10 a.m. today. Several hundred thousand people have been made homeless and are living in temporary shelters.

On March 25, Sakurai met with Tadahiro Matsushita, Japan�s vice minister of economy, trade and industry, and asked for an official to be placed in his office to make sure that information is delivered in a more timely manner so appropriate steps can be taken for the city�s residents.

�We are determined to rebuild our city from scratch, but in doing so, we need more concrete information,� Sakurai said. �Politicians must be more open and give clear directions for our citizens -- listening to press conferences that give no hope just feeds into more worries and distrust.� �