--The Asahi Shimbun, March 16
EDITORIAL: We must stand strong to overcome this catastrophe

We are facing an unprecedented national crisis. In order to overcome it, we have no choice but to create firm bonds of trust between the government and the people, as well as between companies and the people.

The disaster at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. is becoming increasingly serious.

Following hydrogen explosions at the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the No. 2 reactor exploded and a fire occurred at the No. 4 reactor.

The suppression pool linked to the containment vessel that covers the No. 2 reactor has likely broken. There is a danger that highly radioactive substances could leak into the outside air.

Support their dangerous mission

The No. 4 reactor was undergoing a regular inspection when the earthquake hit on March 11. There are also suspicions that the spent fuel rods in the suppression pool part of the reactor have broken because they were not sufficiently cooled.

Four nuclear reactors in a single plant are still unstable and appear to be leaking radioactive substances. This is an extremely serious situation.

The most important thing is to prevent large quantities of radioactive substances from spreading outside.

Under demanding and challenging conditions, desperate efforts to cool the reactors continue. We want to do everything we can to support those efforts so that this difficult and extremely dangerous work can progress as smoothly as possible.

At one point, workers had to be evacuated because a high level of radioactivity was detected inside the plant. While work needs to move forward, safety must also be ensured.

Yet lacking a power source with the limited capacity of pumps or other equipment, it is difficult to find an effective way to bring the situation under control. We need to gather knowledge and strength.

In response to the accident of the No. 2 reactor, Prime Minister Naoto Kan once again called on residents who live within a radius of 20 kilometers of the plant to evacuate and those who live between 20 and 30 kilometers of the plant to stay indoors. People are becoming increasingly anxious about how long the situation will continue.

As many as 200,000 people have been asked to evacuate from the vicinity of the plant. They will be forced to put up with the inconvenience of staying at evacuation sites. To support them, the cooperation of local governments and residents will be indispensable.

Trust the public and disclose information

Kan is the only person who can guide the nation to overcome this crisis. We urge him to give first priority to protecting citizens' lives and act in unison with TEPCO to deal with the difficult situation.

The prime minister visited TEPCO's head office Tuesday and told officials: "You are the only ones (who can do this job). You have to brace yourselves." From the perspective of citizens, his words also apply to the government and the prime minister himself.

Many citizens and government officials have begun to distrust TEPCO because of the way it has dealt with the situation and the delay in releasing information. What is important at this juncture is for all those concerned to come together to overcome the crisis.

First, the government and TEPCO need to closely share information and unify their chain of command. Why not seek the opinions of foreign specialists such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States, both of which have pledged their cooperation?

The important thing at this juncture is to promptly and adequately disclose information.

Until now, at every turn, the government and TEPCO have stressed that everything is under control. We can well understand the need to prevent the public panicking.

However, if the government causes the public to suspect that it is hiding something, it could breed public anxiety. Crisis management depends on the public's trust in the government.

The government needs to have faith in the public and properly release information.

What is actually happening? What developments are expected? What about preparations and what action should be taken?

While doing its best to bring the situation under control, the government should simultaneously prepare for a worsening of the situation. If additional measures such as further evacuation become necessary, it must give prompt and appropriate instructions.

Resilience of Japanese society

The Japanese economy is also about to enter unknown terrain, having been dealt a double blow of an unprecedented nuclear accident, a mega-earthquake and calamitous tsunami.

At the Tokyo Stock Exchange, major stocks of electric power and electronic companies were sold one after another. The Nikkei average recorded the third-highest drop rate in history.

In the face of these unpredictable and turbulent developments that occurred one after the other, both businesses and the people are shrinking back in fear. We must not allow ourselves to fall into a vicious cycle.

In order to stop the financial market contracting, the Bank of Japan has provided a total of 41.8 trillion yen ($518 billion) in funds, the largest amount ever. Every possible measure should be taken so that the economy does not fall into further confusion.

Our patience, resilience and ability to solve problems are being tested. Let us act calmly. The world is watching us.

We were prepared both mentally and materially against earthquakes to an extent. If we regard blackouts as an energy crisis, then we can say that we have already weathered one of those too, with the oil shocks. But this is the first time for Japan to face the ordeal of preventing radioactive leakage from a damaged nuclear power plant.

Japanese industries were based on an interdependent supply system of advanced information, distribution, personnel and financial networks. When struck from the outside, they complemented each other and prepared to help each other to rebuild themselves.

Now is the time for citizens to put up with inconvenience to give first priority to the provision of supplies to the stricken areas. The lives of people who survived a massive tsunami are still hanging in the balance.

With the government at the helm, desperate attempts to stop further damage continue. We must do everything we can to avoid the worst case scenario from occurring.

by kiyoshimat | 2011-03-18 06:28 | 英字新聞

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