Life goes on in Japan, but some things have changed

Life goes on in Japan, but some things have changed

THREE years ago on March 11, 2011, an earthquake and massive tsunami crippled Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant. The closest towns to the stricken plant remain deserted for fear of further radiation leaks.

Is the Fukushima nuclear crisis under control? Is the food in Japan safe to eat?

Living and working in Tokyo, where life hums along, it is easy to forget that the problems spawned by the massive disaster that struck the northern Tohoku region three years ago have mostly yet to be resolved.

While the government plans to decommission the stricken power reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, located just over 200km north of Tokyo, exactly how and when that will be achieved remains largely unknown.

Sceptics think that the government and Tokyo Electric, which runs the Fukushima plant, are trying to hide the truth even though Prime Minister Shinzo Abe tells us that things "are under control", as he did last year when Tokyo made a successful bid to host the 2020 Olympics.

But even if the Japanese suspect Mr Abe does not have a grip on things, can they believe the other side?

Reports of contamination of fish caught near the plant, for instance, may well have been engineered by anti-nuclear groups in Japan and overseas, as the occasional Western expert has come out to say that the dangers at Fukushima are exaggerated.

The Japanese media is often criticised for not carrying much news of the crisis, save perhaps the odd report of a spike in radiation readings. But in special reports last week marking the third anniversary of the disaster, the dailies pulled no punches.

The influential Asahi Shimbun reported that even now, opinion is divided as to whether it was the tremors or the tsunami waves that destroyed the Fukushima reactors.

A detailed analysis that would yield the answer could take years, the Asahi said.

It is depressing to hear that Tokyo Electric still does not know the extent of the damage and whether it is feasible to remove all the fuel rods from the radioactive wreck, an operation for which there is no precedent.

It is unnerving to see Mr Abe pushing for the restarting of nuclear reactors and to peddle his nation's nuclear technology to other countries, even when Fukushima remains a smouldering, radioactive wreck.

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