We care about Japan's disaster situation and are concerned about nuclear safety: Global Times editorial
Published: Jan 03, 2024 12:03 AM
Hokuriku Electric Power Co's Shika Nuclear Power Plant is seen after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Shika, Ishikawa, Japan. Photo: VCG

Hokuriku Electric Power Co's Shika Nuclear Power Plant is seen after multiple strong earthquakes the previous day on January 2, 2024 in Shika, Ishikawa, Japan. Photo: VCG

As of Tuesday evening, the 7.6-magnitude strong earthquake that occurred in Japan has caused at least 57 deaths, multiple casualties, building collapses, widespread power outages, and fires. The latest development is a collision between a Japan Airlines plane and a Japan Coast Guard aircraft at Tokyo's Haneda Airport during landing, resulting in at least five deaths among the six crew members of the latter. The Japan Coast Guard aircraft was originally scheduled to transport relief supplies to the earthquake-stricken area in Ishikawa Prefecture. It was preparing for takeoff on the runway when the incident occurred. It's not difficult to imagine the various chaos that this major earthquake has brought to Japan.

This is the strongest earthquake in Japan since the "3.11" earthquake in 2011. The Japan Meteorological Agency stated on Tuesday that since January 1 local time, there have been 155 earthquakes in Japan, including two strong earthquakes of over magnitude 6. It is uncertain whether there will be continuous aftershocks or even larger earthquakes. Despite Japan's rich experience in dealing with disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, human society remains vulnerable in the face of unexpected natural disasters. We express our sympathy for the victims and injured of this earthquake and hope that the people of Japan, as well as Chinese people in Japan, can safely overcome this difficult situation.

Meanwhile, we also notice that in this earthquake, there is some important information that may not have received enough attention. For example, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced on the evening of January 1 that the water from the fuel pools at the top floors of the No. 7 and No. 2 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture spilled over due to strong earthquakes. These waters contain radioactive materials, and the radiation levels are currently being measured. In addition, there was a situation at the Shika Nuclear Power Station in Ishikawa Prefecture where some water had sloshed from a cooling pool for spent fuel rods. Regarding the issues at these two nuclear power stations, the Japanese authorities have promptly concluded that they are "currently safe," stating that "no damage or leaks were confirmed" and that the fuel cooling at the Shika Nuclear Power Station was "unaffected."

We certainly hope that this accurately reflects the current situation regarding the nuclear power plants. The information has garnered significant attention from netizens, leading to doubts about whether Japan will experience another catastrophic nuclear accident similar to the Fukushima incident following an earthquake. One reason for this concern is that Japan is one of the countries with the highest concentration of nuclear power plants in the world, coupled with its limited land area. Once a serious nuclear disaster occurs, Japan can hardly cope with it independently. The Fukushima nuclear accident serves as a painful reminder. More importantly, the Japanese government and TEPCO have a bad track record of mishandling nuclear accidents. To some extent, they have lost credibility. Furthermore, Japan's stubborn and irresponsible actions regarding the dumping of nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima have caused great concerns among the Japanese people and neighboring countries.

Japan needs to take these legitimate concerns seriously. Although the epicenter of this earthquake was in the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, its impact was widespread, ranging from Hokkaido to Kyushu. The coastal areas of northern Japan, where numerous nuclear facilities and power plants are located, have been affected to varying degrees. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station, which has witnessed problems, is one of the largest in the world.

It is crucial to assess the condition of these nuclear facilities and the radiation levels in the surrounding sea. Does Japan have a comprehensive monitoring plan in place? Are other nuclear power plants along the coast in a safe state? How does Japan ensure transparency in information disclosure? These issues are directly related to the well-being of the Japanese people and the surrounding countries, and they require a serious response from Japan in the process of dealing with this earthquake.

Of course, Japan has its own difficulties. Most of the country is not only coastal but also located in earthquake zones. It also lacks mineral resources such as oil and coal. To a certain extent, developing nuclear power is Japan's best choice. Therefore, Japan should always adhere to the original intention of nuclear power benefiting the people, and be more cautious and proper in preventing and handling any possible emergencies.

We understand that it may be challenging for Japan to quickly grasp the full extent of the situation immediately after an earthquake. When it comes to nuclear accidents, Japan has made mistakes in the past, and we hope it will not repeat them. This concerns the personal safety of the Japanese people and is also a universal concern of the international community.