A Diet committee has decided to push back a session on the problem of water contaminated with radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident, ostensibly to wait to see what measures the Abe administration comes up with first.
But fishermen and others directly affected by the hundreds of tons of contaminated water flowing into the sea are skeptical, and believe the stalling tactic is simply a ploy to avoid negative publicity ahead of a Sept. 7 vote by the International Olympic Committee to decide the host city for the 2020 Summer Games, of which Tokyo is a leading candidate.
"If they think it is all right to delay dealing with the contaminated water, that shows an extremely low sense of what the problem is," said Masakazu Yabuki, head of the Iwaki city fisheries cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture. "I have gone beyond angry to being completely astounded."
Although the Diet is currently not in session, there are provisions that allow for the holding of committee sessions on urgent matters. For the fishermen and others in Fukushima, it is a highly urgent matter and they want swift action to deal with the problem.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority has classified the water leak as a "serious incident," a Level 3 event on the eight-level International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), and the leakage of radioactive materials into the Pacific Ocean has now garnered international attention.
But directors of the Lower House Economy, Trade and Industry Committee met on Aug. 30 and decided to hold off on a session on the problem until mid-September or later. Among the reasons given for that decision was a desire to first look at what the central government was putting together in terms of measures to deal with the leaking contaminated water.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said that it would present such measures next week.
Some committee members also proposed visiting the Fukushima site to check on the leakage before holding a committee session.
The Abe administration plans to announce specific measures to deal with the leaking problem ahead of the IOC vote in order to placate international concerns about radiation in Tokyo.
At the same time, the decision by the Diet committee to wait to see what the government plans to do will likely raise criticism that lawmakers were more concerned about bringing the Olympics to Tokyo than dealing with a problem that has already hurt the fishing industry in Fukushima Prefecture.
The Iwaki fisheries cooperative postponed its initial plan to begin test fishing in September. It has submitted a request to the central government asking that it deal with the leaking water as quickly as possible.
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