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tv   Inside Story  Al Jazeera  September 9, 2013 5:00pm-5:31pm EDT

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♪ >> welcome back to al jazeera, i'm tony harris. the former secretary of state says she supports president obama's call for a strike on syria. >> the assad regime's use of weapons of mass destruction violates the universal norm at the heart of global order and demands a strong response. >> syria surrendering chemical weapons would avert a strike.
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the syrian president warns of repercussions if the u.s. decides to launch military strikes. assad also denies his government wa behind last week's chemical weapons attack. russia proposes that syria hands over control of its chemical weapons and the foreign minister says they'll do it. and those are the headlines this hour. more news next hour. "inside story" is next on al jazeera. ♪ ♪ two years on the nuclear crisis at the fukushima reactor in japan is far from over. we'll examine the latest effort
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to continue the radiation. from washington, this is "inside story." ♪ >> hello, i libby casey. the 2020 summer games have been awarded to tokyo. a surprising choice because japan is still recovering from one of the worst nuclear disasters the world has ever known. efforts have redoubled in recent days, and the japanese government has committed to making it all safe. this weekend came as a much-needed vote of confidence. >> the international olympic committee has the honor of announcing that the games of the 32nd olympiad in 2020 are
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awarded to the city of . . . tokyo. [ cheers ] >> cheers, hugs, jubilation. on saturday japan won it big for the 2020 olympic games. many believed the dream of hosting the games for a second time with would be thwarted here. it's been two years since one of the worst earthquake disasters in japanese history. most of the coastline remains a shell of a former community. over 150,000 residents are still displaced. now the plant is leaking radioactive waste into underground water supplies.
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the final push to win the games, he tried to assure the world. >> the situation is under control. [ inaudible ] never done and will never do any damage to tokyo. >> tokyo electric power also the cleanup. radiation levels around the plant continue to climb, doubling in the last week. in a message posted on its website, the president appealed to the international communities. >> we recognize that bringing the contaminated water under control is a most serious problem that we must address. >> the government stepped in before the final olympic bid. >> the japanese government went into full damage control last week, promising to spend nearly
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half a billion dollars on two projects that they say would help deal with contaminated water that's leaking from the plant. they also said they would take charge of cleanup operations. >> now the plan is to replace the sandbags surrounding the leaky tanks with an underground frozen barrier. the idea is that freezing the earth will block contaminated water from escaping the area, and they will treat the water so it can be dumped back in the sea. but it remains to be scene if the effort is more about easing public concern than effectively controlling the leaks. ♪ >> joining us here in washington is edwin limon, senior scientist in the global security program. from tokyo, andrew dewitt, a
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policy studies, and from london, ian lacy, a senior research analyst at the world nuclear association. ed we'll start with you. we asked this question of whether the latest moves are about a pr move or about true cleanup. so dig in to what they are doing for us. what is this ice wall they are trying to build? >> they need to construct some sort of a structure that is going to prevent ground water from flow going the site. so the option the government has chosen would be to create an artificial perm ma frost and creating a solid wall of ice. >> and you work for the nuclear energy trade group. what is your take on the
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viability of this? >> well, the first point to make is the governments and the nra, and the industry minister have all made it quite clear that there is no pollution after two and a half years of the ocean adjacent to the plant. so that raises some questions about how necessary this ice wall is. secondly, the figures you quoted earlier are fantastic. they have been in the media, i agree, but they have not been from tepco or the nra. the leakage in that large water treatment plant is present, but it is minor and it has no effect outside of the immediate site area. >> i want to get to professor dewitt, but first ed limon, we're talking about contaminated water that is leaking out. is the number appropriate.
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>> 300 metric tons a day is believed to be [ inaudible ] but most of that is ground water that is flowing under the plant. there was a leak of about 300 tons last week. >> and why is that significant? the radiation is a problem. why and how does the water come into play here? >> first the nuclear industry's premise is they can design, build, and operate nuclear power plants and control the radioactive substances that they generate. radio active isotopes will accumulate in the environment and find their way into the food chain. >> andrew dewitt, you are a professor in japan, tell us how the japanese people are interpreting the big spend of money, and do they buy what is
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happening? >> well, there aren't any opinion polls as of yet in the wake of that announcement, so it's hard to speak on behalf of public opinion as a whole, but if you look at the content of newspaper articles, editorials, the social media messaging, and so forth, there's considerable doubt reflecting the content of satements from the various agencies themselves about -- you know, whether this approach will work, whether it's viable. and so we're at that. >> professor, what was the mood like in tokyo when the announcement was made that the olympic games were secured? and do people see this is going to be a game changer for just the mood of the nation as it still deals with fukushima? >> oh, there's enormous jubilation, you know, that the
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support rate for this try at the olympics in contrast to the previous one was very much higher. people want this kind of internationalization, and so forth, and this is seen by the business community, by most public opinion, albeit, there is some doubt, you know, residents in any city that has won on an olympic bid are often a bit dubious about the impact on their lives, but for the most part there is a great deal of enthusiasm. >> thank you. when we return we'll talk about the japanese government's role in controlling the crisis. stay with us.
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♪ >> we're talking about japan's troubled fukushima nuclear plant. here with ed limon, and in tokyo, we have andrew dewitt, and we're joined by ian hoerlacy of the world nuclear association. you don't think there is any dnger from the ground water. explain that. >> i don't think there is any danger. but let's come back to the water-treatment is plant. you have tipco who has two
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stages. it pulls out sesium, and the second stage takes out all the other nuclear [ inaudible ] except for tridium. that will clean up the water very considerably. but it's important to understand that -- that much of that water that is stored is tresid, it has the primary treatment and maybe the second retreatment. and there may be leaks from time to time, but the point is to make sure that doesn't go anywhere that will effect anybody. >> authorities said they were wrong about radiation levels, and there was a spike in the last couple of weeks. do you disagree with that finding? >> i do disagree that there's any overall spike in radiation levels in that whole area.
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if you take a radiation counter around the plant like that, you will find odd hot spots in any plant handling radioactive material. there is no increase in radiation generally, either around the plant or let alone from it. >> what about the workers? >> they are all issued with monitoring badges, and the levels of radiation exposure for many of the workers at this stage is very, very minor. in the middle of the accident there were some relatively high levels. at this stage i wouldn't expect that any worker would get anymore radiation than any other people in the community. >> will you move people back in? would you return the people home? >> i think nearly all of them
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could safely return home right now. the levels are higher than is ideal, but lower than is -- than is experienced by many people from natural background radiation in certain parts of the world, in india, brazil, iran, and so forth. thre are populations exposed to much higher levels than -- most of those evacuees would find if they returned home now. >> let's turn to ed and get a sense from you? so you agree it is safe to return there? >> i have to disagree very strongly with what we just heard. this is a crisis for the workings who have to appear on that site every day and deal with this growing crisis. they have a thousand storage tanks, some of them have started to leak, and that is creating hot spots which is a radioactive
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h hazards for workers on-site. a few weeks ago several workers set off alarms and they have to wear respirators in parts of the plant that they didn't have to previously >> talk about the radiation in general, are there areas of particular concern? >> the first few weeks after the accident were clearly the worst. you had atmospheric emissions when the three reactors -- when the cores melted and there were large atmospheric regions where there were deposits over a high area. and there were settlements in the water. but it's still an ongoing concern, because it is, again,
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the commitment of the industry and the utility to ensure that they do not have an ongoing leakage. >> profez or dewitt, the japanese government has stepped in a much greater role in recent weeks. why is that? >> the degree to which they have stepped up to the plate is -- you know, is a subject of debate. you -- you -- you don't have the government coming in and taking over the operations. in fact the ministry of economy, trade, and industry is going to increase its monitoring of tepco on-site. that is the nature of stepping in on the monitoring side. they are also going to pony up some money for, you know, financing these -- the alcs, the
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contaminated water cleaning treatment, and the ice wall initiative, and so, you know, the ice wall, for example, is not going to go into operation as its is currently envisioned until about 2015, so there is considerable concern that while you say you are stepping up and taking over and fixing everything, but, you know, things aren't happening, and so we would like to see faster, you know, dealing with these problems continue to emerge. for example, we had a new announcement today that it found new leaks, and so this is -- you know, for public opinion it's quite distressful. >> so ian do you think the government is doing enough, and what do you make of the money they are put going this and the
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pr effort they are putting forth right now? >> i'm skeptical about the value of this huge ice wall, given that there is not any pollution of the sea at this point happening from all of the monitoring that is done, but, look, i don't have the detailed figures, government and tepco people do, but with regard to howe much the government should be involved, yes, of course, it should monito what tepco is doing, but it seems to me tepco is running a reasonably good show in very difficult circumstances. much of the plants and many of thoe tanks were built in a hurry, early on in 2011. they went sort of idealized -- it wasn't an idealized design, and given that, they seem to be managing it reasonably well. >> i need a quick response.
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sorry. i just need a quick response. but ed limon, the government's roll, is this a pr push? >> the government has been complicit all along in the way japanese nuclear reactors have developed, and their lack of regulation did play a role in the initial accident. and i do think the announcement was an attempt to show the world and the olympic committee that they have things under control. that isn't to say that the ice wall may not be successful, but i do think it was a push to say everything is okay, i'm skeptical that they really have the situation under control at this point. >> time for a quick break, and when we come back we'll look at the wider impacts of the fukushima nuclear crisis.
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welcome back to "inside story." so should the wider world be worried about what is happening in northeastern japan, here to talk about that with us, ed limon of the union of concerned scientists.
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in tokyo we have professor dewitt. professor, we saw south korea make an announcement about not being interested in japanese fish. >> the fishing interest in that region is quite devastated, and the farmer industry is suffering, and especially -- it was already in trouble, but this has only exacerbated those problems, and the implications are profound. >> and how is that perceived by the japanese people? is there a depressed feeling in terms of knowing that the industries are suffering, and the international community might be looking at some of the products with disinterest because they are worried about the health impact? >> well, the -- for a long time,
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there was a -- right after the accident there was great concern especially among mothers about buying products and so forth, and that had died down considerably prior to this opening up again in -- you know, on the international stage in july, and so you have -- you know, very much an unsettled degree of public opinion there as well as, because of the inability now to export the core of -- you know, of japanese -- japaneseness, which is the elements of the cuisine, the impact of that we -- it's -- it's still unfolding, but that is a very great shock in it's a as well. >> ed limon, what are the long-term implications here, and what are you concerned about the impact being? >> there will be impacts from
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the fukushima incident. from people who were exposed during the early days, to those who were consuming contaminated produce and foods. we expect there will be on the order of at least a thousand cancer deaths worldwide from the accident probably more. but i think the implications for the worldwide nuclear industry is really troubling, because even after fukushima, countries like china and india continue to pursue the construction of large numbers of nuclear power plants. even in japan it's the government's plan to reopen the plants that were shut down. and we need to consider whether all of the impacts of the severe accident like fukushima are being considered in this decision. >> ian tell us what you think.
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>> i think there will be virtually zero impact. and that has been emphasized by the world health commission, by the un, that there should be no long-term health effects for anybody from the fukushima accident. that has been very clearly stated after a couple of years, and careful investigation. so i would absolutely disagree with ed limon. there is no scientific basis for making that sort of statement. >> scientific basis? >> unfortunately there is. there is a dose associated with the radiation that was released from fukushima, and the world health organization and the um committee both calculated the radiation impact on all of the people exposed and from those values you can deduce the order of this thousand cancer death
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f figure. >> andrew dewitt is there a concern that money is being allocated to the olympics? or is it saying that the olympics will be a boost because it will motivate everyone to work towards goals faster? >> well, you know, that hasn't entered the debate yet, because this decision was only taken yesterday, but i -- i wouldn't be too worried about that. within the ldp, they said, look, let us make the growth that is the renewable and efficiency-centered growth going in in that region, let us make that national, and so i don't think you are going to find a great diversion of funds from the -- from that area, especially from fukushima, because now they have to go towards 2020 and have no trouble along the way, and so there are
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in fact this decision to award the olympics to japan is wonderful for the olympics alone, but for -- for getting a handle on this problem? for the incentive structure that was forcing them along to get handle on this, this is an enormous boost. the international monitoring and other kinds of activities is only going to increase. >> all right. we'll have to leave it there. thank you so much to all of you. you can keep the debate going by logging on to our facebook page or send us your thoughts on twitter. thanks for watching.
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