Japan MP drinks water from Fukushima radioactive puddle in bid to prove plant’s safety
Published 01/11/2011 | 15:22
A JAPANESE politician has drunk a glass of water taken from puddles inside the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Yasuhiro Sonoda drinks a glass of decontaminated water taken from puddles inside the buildings housing reactors five and six at the Fukushima plant.
Yasuhiro Sonoda, a Japanese MP and parliamentary spokesman for the cabinet office, drank water not normally intended for human consumption after it was scooped up from gathered pools inside Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
The politician was visibly nervous as he gulped the water from a glass with shaking hands in a televised press conference in a bid to highlight government confidence in the efficiency of its decontamination procedures.
Collected from beneath two reactor buildings at the plant, the water is decontaminated before being used for tasks such as watering plants, a controversial procedure which has been the subject of safety concerns in the media.
Before drinking the water, Mr Sonoda read out a string of figures relating to its low contamination levels and explained he was drinking in response to journalists repeatedly asking him to “prove” the safety of the plant’s surrounding area.
Speaking at the headquarter offices of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), operators of the plant, he added: “Just drinking (decontaminated water) doesn’t mean safety has been confirmed, I know that. Presenting data to the public is the best way.”
Mr Sonoda’s decision to drink water from the plant is not the first time a politician has performed such a stunt in order to allay public health concerns.
The former prime minister Naoto Kan and his chief government spokesman Yukio Edano both ate food from Fukushima prefecture following the nuclear crisis earlier this year in an attempt to reassure the public that produce from the region was safe to eat.
Their actions echo the infamous scenario of British politician John Gummer, the former agriculture minister, who ate a hamburger along with his four-year-old daughter before gathered media in 1990 at the height of the mad cow disease scare.
In that instance, Mr Gummer’s actions backfired as a surge in BSE cases followed along with plummeting consumer confidence in beef safety, eventually leading to a public inquiry into his handling of the crisis.
Fukushima Power Plant was critically damaged when the March 11 earthquake struck triggering a powerful tsunami, resulting in a series of meltdowns after the facility’s crucial cooling systems were knocked out.
Following the earthquake and tsunami, radiation was subsequently released into the surrounding atmosphere, land and sea as operators struggled to contain the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Nearly eight months after the disaster, a 12-mile exclusion zone is still in place around the plant due to contamination while tens of thousands of residents remain relocated to temporary homes outside the region.
Tepco, the plant operators, remain optimistic that cold shutdown will be achieved by the government target date of the end of the year, with reactors stabilised and its water no longer at boiling point.
The government’s confidence in the plant’s recovery was in further evidence on Tuesday when it was announced that journalists would also be able to visit the plant for the first time since the disaster on November 12.
However, full decontamination of the plant is expected to take significantly longer, with a recent preliminary report by nuclear experts stating that complete decommissioning could take as long as 30 years.