Japan’s contaminated tap water problem
di ATSUSHI NAITO
In March 11, big earthquake and tsunami Japan. Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures were damaged very seriously, but the damage of the Greater Tokyo Metropolitan area was relatively small. However there are liquefied districts in this area. The earthquake and tsunami caused many problems, but one of most serious problem is the crisis of the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. Although the critical situation was avoided, the radioactive substances leak into the air and continue to escape. Radioactive iodine has detected beyond Japan’s regulated standard in tap water in a town in Fukushima Prefecture in March 17, and radioactive iodine and cesium has also detected beyond limit in spinach harvested in Ibaraki prefecture in the south of Fukushima prefecture in March 20. This news caused the population of Kanto area uneasiness. In March 23, 210 becquerels of radioactive iodine were detected per 1 kilogram of water against the limit of 100 becquerels in a water purification plant which is located in Kanamachi in Tokyo Metropolis. This limit is for infant, but the water bottles are sold out in the retail stores in an instant. Contaminated water seems to be caused by rainfall on March 20. The level of radioactive substances now declined, but the water bottles keep running short.
There are several causes of this water panic. First, after the earthquake even in Tokyo Metropolitan area the distribution of the commodities becomes slightly confused and because the planned blackout due to the shortage of electric power is executed from March 14, then batteries, flashlights, instant noodles and canned provisions were sold out at once. The shortage of some commodities triggered stockpiling.
Second, the planned blackout is inconvenient for daily life but also the production is adversely affected. The way Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) implement the blackout is unskillful, because whether the power supply is cut off in the planned districts is not clear until the blackout is executed. This blackout causes the shortage of some commodities by disturbing the production and enhances a sense of unease of the population.
Third, the distrust of the Government and TEPCO become enhanced because people think that the Government and TEPCO conceal the fact of nuclear plant. As already stated, TEPCO is very bureaucratic organization, on the other hand the Government is straying. For example, the Government started to consider the easing of regulations on the radioactive substances for food and water, but the Government was criticized, the proposal of the easing of regulation is abolished. Another example is the evacuation order of the areas within 20 kilometers from the Fukushima No.1 Plant and the order of staying inside the building within 30 kilometers from the Nuclear Plant. The residents within 20 km evacuated, but the area within 20 – 30 km are actually abandoned, because the delivery of goods is left undone. The Government should order the evacuation of the residents within 30 km from the Plant.
In Japan, street demonstration is not active, but after the earthquake the demonstrations against nuclear plant are held. It is unbelievable that there are still some people insisting that nuclear plant is safe and should promote it, but although the nuclear plants can not suspend because of the shortage of electric power and the Japanese system of power supply the plan to escape from the dependence on nuclear power should be made.