Japan hopes to minimise nuclear fears

With the level of nuclear crisis raised to the maximum, Japanese government has to focus on maintaining public trust.

    Edano and comedian Shizu-chan eat produce in Fukushima in a bid to show that foods grown in the area are safe [AFP]

    With the nuclear crisis at the earthquake-damaged Daiichi plant in Fukushima being upgraded to a level 7 - on par with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster - the Japanese government moved on the defensive.

    Naoto Kan, the country's prime minister, held a press conference early Tuesday afternoon, trying to assure the public that the amount of radiation leaking from the unstable plant, where workers have been struggling to cool fuel rods and failing to contain radioactive water,  is decreasing.

    Then, later on the same day, the man many consider to be the government's front man for the crisis, Yukio Edano, the Japanese chief cabinet secretary, held a second press conference.

    "The upgrade was not due to a new emergency," said Edano.  "It is based on the latest analysis of data for the international nuclear event scale."

    Edano on Monday vehemently denied that fear of leaking radiation had prompted his family to leave the country. The Japan Times newspaper reported that according to rumours, Edano's wife and twin kindergarten-age sons had flown overseas, but vehemently denied those rumours.

    "I have not been telling the people of Japan and those in Tokyo that there is something for them to be worried about and that goes for my family as well," Edano said in a press conference on Monday.

    Mistrust of government

    Still, despite the denials, there is a sense among the Japanese public that they're not being presented with all of the facts.

    Al Jazeera's Harry Fawcett, reporting from Tokyo, said that the Japanese government has had to repeatedly state that it "has not been suppressing any information, they haven't been hiding anything".

    Fawcett said that Edano, who has been holding news conferences on an almost daily basis, specifically addressed the international media on Tuesday, when the questions focused on the elevated crisis level.

    "He said it was just an analysis of the data, that more radiation than initially thought had been pumped out of the plant or had been spewed out of the plant  and that's why the event level had been raised to its maximum," said Fawcett.

    But our correspondent said Edano insisted that there was "no new emergency, and ... there was no need for any new measures and people shouldn't be in any way more worried that the situation was worse now than it was before."

    And that, said Fawcett, was a "difficult message to sell to people who are extremely concerned about what's happening at that plant."

    The Fukushima Daiichi plant, operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co, was badly damaged by the March 11 earthquake, which also resulted in a tsunami.

    So far, over 13,000 people have been confirmed dead, over 14,000 are missing and about 140,000 are still in emergency evacuation centres.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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