TOKYO: The head of Tokyo Electric Power Co. has sent a rare English message to calm fears over the impact of the Fukushima accident, which has overshadowed Tokyo’s bid for the 2020 Olympics.
In rivalry with Istanbul and Madrid, Tokyo is bracing for the vote in Buenos Aires on Saturday (early Sunday Japan time) to pick who should host the Summer Games.
But media coverage of the crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima, where radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, has dogged Tokyo’s bid.
“We deeply apologize for the greater anxiety caused by the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station,” TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said in a video message posted on its homepage on Thursday.
“Supported by the Japanese government . . . all of us at TEPCO will strive relentlessly to control the contaminated water,” Hirose said in English.
But he denied any significant impact on the environment outside the plant, playing down fears over the possible spread of radiation.
“We believe that the impact on the surrounding waters is limited to the area within the port of the power plant,” he said.
“And that judging by the results of our monitoring three kilometres (two miles) offshore there has been no impact on the water or the wider ocean,” he added.
A TEPCO spokesman said the posting of the message “just coincided” with the final days of the Olympic race.
“We had long prepared for the message as there was a concern in other countries over the leak of contaminated water,” the spokesman said. “It’s nothing to do with Olympics.”
In Buenos Aires, however, questions over Fukushima and how it might affect Tokyo’s bid dominated news conferences by Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose and its delegation members.
Inose brushed aside concerns over the impact on the environment around the capital, some 220 kilometers (140 miles) from the plant, while stressing that the Japanese government had taken control of the crisis.
Japanese newspapers said the contest to host the 2020 Olympics was too close to predict, with the Yomiuri Shimbun saying Tokyo’s bid depends on “how to overcome the weak point at the final presentation”.
In March 2011, an earthquake and tsunami killed more than 18,000 people and caused meltdowns at Fukushima in the world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
More than two years after the disaster, TEPCO continues to struggle with the clean-up, which is expected to take around four decades.
TEPCO has revealed highly toxic water may have made its way into the Pacific Ocean. The utility also says up to 300 tonnes of mildly radioactive groundwater is making its way into the sea every day.