Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Japanese Government's Handling of Dumping Contaminated Water: "Ugly, Ugly Japanese"

I am really ashamed to be Japanese.

South Koreans are upset, so are the Russians, over TEPCO dumping contaminated water, no matter they say it's safe.

They are upset, partly because Japan didn't bother to notify them.

Did Japan notify them, or didn't? Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said his government most assuredly did, but qualified it by saying since it involved multiple countries his government had notified the IAEA [so that the IAEA would in turn notified the countries involved].


That Edano's bureaucratic position was confirmed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Takeaki Matsumoto in the press conference on April 5.

According to Yomiuri (in Japanese, link added on the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea; 1:09AM JST 4/6/2011):


Asked about South Korea and Russia's concern over the release of low radioactive water in to the ocean during the press conference on April 5, Foreign Minister Matsumoto said that there was "no significant effect on health, and not a problem with Japan's obligation under the international treaty".


Matsumoto clarified the government position that there was nothing wrong or amiss in the Japanese government's handling, emphasizing that "the Japanese government notified the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), explained to the diplomatic corps, and sent [them] faxes [to notify and explain?]"


According to Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the explanation to the diplomatic corps was done at the Ministry from 4:00PM on April 4. held an [That's exactly when the TEPCO held an un-televised press conference and told the journalists in the room that it was dumping contaminated water into the sea.]

 国連海洋法条約では、海洋環境の保護や汚染防止のほか、汚染による損害で危険が及ぶ国への通報を求めている。枝野官房長官は5日の記者会見で 「(同条約で)海洋汚染防止の一般的義務を日本も負うが、直ちに差し迫った汚染の影響を周辺各国に及ぼすものではない。近隣国をはじめ関心が高いので、外 交ルートを通じて適切な説明を徹底したい」と語った。

The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea requires [the signatories] protect the marine environment from pollution, and notify the countries who would be affected by the pollution. Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano said in the press conference on April 5 that "Japan has a general obligation (under the treaty), but [dumping the contaminated water in the ocean] does not immediately pose a threat of pollution to the neighboring countries. But since the countries, including the neighboring countries, have a lot of interest [in the dumping of contaminated water], we will make sure the appropriate explanation is conveyed through the diplomatic channel."

What arrogance from a group of elementary school boys with wrinkles and gray hairs (or black hairs that are dyed).

Both South Korea and Russia have sent (or tried to send) material and monetary assistance to the relief effort in Japan after the earthquake and tsunami. South Koreans raised a huge amount of money, sent foods and blankets to Tohoku (I'm afraid they are still sitting at the official depots undelivered to people who needed them). Russia has offered help from experts with detailed knowledge of Chernobyl reactor accident (the Japanese government delayed issuing visas for fear that the presence of Chernobyl experts might signal to the world that the Fukushima situation was dire).

They are the closest neighbors of Japan. And what did the Japanese government do? It told the IAEA to notify them. Oh but we sent the fax to their embassies in Tokyo, wasn't that good enough? And we called their diplomats to the Ministry and told them about it at the same time we instructed TEPCO to tell the journalists so that they could write about it for the Japanese people later.

Well, wrinkled elementary school boys of Japan who inhabit the government, let me tell you what you should have done:

  1. It was apparent that TEPCO would run out of space to store contaminated water at the plant for quite some time. Instead of telling the foreign diplomats 3 hours before you would start dumping the contaminated water, you would contact them several days before April 4. Maybe a week before. You would send high level Foreign Ministry officials, yes bureaucrats but they know more about proper international protocols than you politicians, to the embassies of the countries that could possibly be affected - Russia, South Korea, China, Taiwan, for a start.

  2. These high level officials would meet the ambassadors, and explain the situation. Ask the ambassadors to immediately convey the message to their respective head of state back home.

  3. Prime Minister Kan would personally place a call to the ambassadors and then the heads of the states in these countries, asking for their understanding of the dire situation.

  4. The government would contact the IAEA at the same time, and solicit their help in convincing and placating the affected countries by making them understand the situation better.

  5. At the same time, you would tell the municipalities along the coast, up and down from the plant, that you were planning to release the contaminated water. They would naturally object, but you could have at least explained the situation to them beforehand, instead of what you did, which was to take them by total surprise after the fact.

  6. After the countries were fully notified and informed of the situation and gave their reluctant consent, Prime Minister Kan would appear on TV, and announce that he instructed TEPCO to release the contaminated water into the ocean, and HE apologize to everyone - fishermen, Japanese, Russians, Koreans, the world, instead of a poor TEPCO manager having to announce, who was choking with tears. (h/t threeggg for vid)

Instead, you hid behind a middle manager at TEPCO, hid behind a fax machine.

And TEPCO management hid behind their middle manager, whose looks tell me (I could be wrong) he is actually an engineer in a position that requires hands-on work. If TEPCO had to announce, it should have been announced by the chairman of the company who is responsible for the company. Instead, the top management made this middle manager do it.

I guess it is too late for you to grow up, so why don't you all move out and let adults handle the problems?

If there is any adult left in Japan, it is assuredly not in the government at any level.


Anonymous said...

You have all very good points. But unlike Kan and Tepco, you are thinking like a person with morals and ethics. I think the worse part was the fact that they forced that poor man, who made the announcement, their scapegoat. They are true cowards for doing that.
You, like most Japanese, have no reason to be ashamed, but the people who are running this circus have plenty of reasons to feel shame for the rest of their lives.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Thank you for your words, but I still feel ashamed.

These clowns who think they run the show got to their positions precisely because they have no sense of shame, and they never will.

If this were 50 years ago we would have seen almost the entire TEPCO top management committed suicide by now, and at least half the politicians.

Anonymous said...

Trying to cover your ass is a human impulse but it always works out better if you just stiffen up your spine and do what you have to do. Unpleasant situations require unpleasant actions. No getting around it. Why try to reinvent the wheel when the Chernobyl guys have been there.

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