Heavily radioactive water seepage at Fukushima raises concerns

With heavily radioactive water seeping, into the Pacific, across a barrier built to stop it, Fukushima is in the news once again much to the discomfiture of proponents of nuclear energy.

The latest crisis has prompted Japan's popular prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to call for a more direct intervention by the government in the plants' clean up, departing from the stance of the earlier government,  after the triple meltdowns at the plant in 2011 came to be accepted as the world's second worst nuclear disaster.

According to commentators, Abe a firm advocate of nuclear power, appeared to have calculated that a more active government intervention was the need of the hour to win public trust to prop up, a pillar of his economic revival plan - the restarting of many idled nuclear plants.

While the catastrophe dealt a massive blow to that trust, what caused grievous damage to it was the two and half years of sometimes embarrassing missteps by the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, and what is seen by many Japanese as the company's continuing attempts to mislead the public and cover up continuing troubles at the plant.

Abe told a group of cabinet ministers gathered to discuss the water problem that is was not an issue the government could let Tepco take complete responsibility of. He added, the government needed to deal with it at the national level. The biggest challenge at the plant, meanwhile, appeared to be slowly spiraling out of control.

The latest development at the plant gives the lie to the comforting assumption that the Japanese were dealing with Fukushima and things were gradually being brought under control.

Commentators point out that the Fukushima plant contained several reactors, and the specific developments in each one were different (although all were appalling) and called for differing responses. They say what was required to understand the nature of the beast unleashed by the accident was a good knowledge of  nuclear physics which put off many people.

Another possible reason that people round the world thought they would be better off not thinking about it was the admission by experts from Japan that they did not know if there were practical solutions to the threats posed by the disaster and its aftermath. Also since the experts pointed out that the chances of success of any action were not known, they probably preferred to believe that they had heard the last of Fukushima.

Fukushima, however, had never been brought under control and though there were many reasons for this, the most fundamental one was that the Japanese government left the job to the owner of the site, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which was never up to it.