In an adjacent office building to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, newspapers from March 11, 2011 are stacked high with the headline of the day reading "Magnitude 8.8, largest in country." Since then, they have remained untouched, eerily documenting the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear crisis that soon unfolded.
Over three years has now passed since that headline was first printed. The Fukushima crisis, wreaked unprecedented levels of damage both politically, societally, and ecologically on the Japanese population and the surrounding marine environment. Last week, evidence surfaced that the extent of the harm caused by relentless leakages had been suppressed by government officials and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, in the weeks after the crisis began in March 2011. This malfeasant attempt to conceal the magnitude of the devastation may have caused irrevocable damage by not providing the relevant authorities accurate information to contain the leakages.
Every day, Fukushima leaks 400 tons of what TEPCO deems "light water" (water laced with radioactive particles). The ecological catastrophe from this is on a scale unprecedented since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. Marine biologists have already noticed highly unusual levels of radiation in orcas and other marine wildlife affecting migration and feeding patterns. Of even more concern is the 100 tons of highly radioactive water that leaked from storage tanks last month. Unlike the light water, this recent leak is far more dangerous. Simply by stepping in a puddle of the water can have life threatening consequences. Each liter of the water contains 115 million particles of Strontium 90, which if absorbed by the human body can lead to bone cancer and leukemia.
By downplaying the severity of the leakages from the beginning of the crisis, the Japanese government and TEPCO in a wave of hubris, have flagrantly overestimated their own capabilities at managing the containment operation. TEPCO have left the cleanup operation to a woefully inexperienced and poorly equipped group of laborers. Yukiteru Naka, founder of Tohoku Enterprise, a contractor and former plant engineer at General Electric, told The New York Times disturbingly: "We are forced to do more with less, like firemen being told to use less water even though the fire's still burning."
National pride should not come at the expense of endangering lives. It is long overdue for the Japanese authorities to request international assistance to address the unceasing leakages. Without an honest reassessment of the containment operation - the legacy of Fukushima will be one of only tragedy and mismanagement.