Fukushima leak: Who will clean up the mess? (+video)(Read article summary)
Japanese officials have said they will step up their role in the cleanup of the Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, widely regarded as bungled by the plant's operator. But to what extent should the government aid in the cleanup, and is the help too little, too late?
The cleanup at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant continues more than two years after the disaster in March 2011. Leaks and errors have plagued the process, leading many to wonder who is in charge, and – perhaps more importantly – who should be in charge?
The Japanese government has said it will step up its involvement amid concerns that Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the crippled plant's operator, has largely bungled the containment of leaking radioactive water. But some say it's too little, too late, and a Japanese official reiterated Wednesday that Tepco is ultimately responsible for the Fukushima problem.
“This is Tepco’s plant," Tatsuya Shinkawa, director of the nuclear accident response office at Japan's ministry of economy, trade and industry, said as reported by the Financial Times. "It has all the technology, all the maps, all the technical data on Fukushima Daiichi. I think [it] can control the situation, under oversight from the government.”
What it doesn't have, some argue, are the resources and urgency to correct the continuing leakage, which what is a complex, fast-moving problem. That has led to a series of missteps and misinformation, experts say, that has eroded the public's confidence in the cleanup process.
"If the government wants to win back the trust of the people - which it and Tepco lost due to a lack of information release on radioactivity when the accident first occurred - it needs to aggressively handle the ongoing leaks at Fukushima," Daniel Aldrich, an associate professor of political science at Purdue University, wrote in an e-mail.
That trust is particularly crucial for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who sees nuclear power as critical to Japan's economic future. All but two of Japan's 50 nuclear reactors remain shuttered in the wake of Fukushima. The Abe administration is working to change that but faces an uphill battle against public opposition.