Back in 2011, whenever anyone accused Japan's energy company Tepco and government of covering up the scale and severity of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, they were promptly accused of being conspiracy theorists. After all, the "argument" went, no serious organization would dare to do that, especially when millions of people's lives were at stake.
Today, over five years later, we got confirmation that yet another "conspiracy theory" was just another "fact", when the president of TEPCO, Naomi Hirose, admitted on NHK that his company concealed the reactor meltdowns at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant immediately after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Hirose also confirmed that TEPCO ordered not to use the word “core meltdown” when referring to what happened at the crippled plant. In fact, the utility did not officially admit the meltdowns until more than 2 months after the accident. The announcement came a week after a scandalous report claimed that Japanese government and TEPCO hushed up the tragedy.
"I would say it was a cover-up," Hirose told a news conference. "It's extremely regrettable."
And while it remains to be seen how many thousands of innocent Japanese will die from cancer as a result of this unprecedented scandal, the truth is that it was not entirely TEPCO's fault. Earlier in June a report emerged that then-President of TEPCO Masataka Shimizu told employees not to use the word “meltdown.” The decision was allegedly made under pressure from the Japanese government.
According to the document, someone in the government headed by Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan wanted the tragedy hushed up. On March 14, only three days after the catastrophe, Shimizu sent a note to company Vice-President Sakae Muto, warning him not to say “meltdown,” the report claimed. Muto was heading to a panel to discuss the crisis.
This is just another example of a "developed" government which is supposed to protect its people, willfully and directly putting millions in harm's way in order to give the false impression that things are better than they are.
“Considering this fact, it is presumable that the Prime Minister’s Office requested Shimizu to be careful about admitting to a meltdown in public,” the report said, as cited by the Japan Times.
According to Yasuhisa Tanaka, who headed the panel which contributed to the report, a hearing with dozens of TEPCO employees was conducted. However, he didn’t talk to anyone from the government.
Of course, even when caught lying, the government can't stop itself from digging an even deeper hole: “Looking at the situation back then, we think it was difficult for TEPCO to use the term meltdown because even the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency couldn’t use it,” due to apparent government pressure, Tanaka said.
In fact the first time TEPCO used the word “meltdown” was May 15, 2011, over two months after the tragedy. The company preferred to use “core damage” about the reactor that was severely damaged in the earthquake and tsunami.
Both then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan and then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano have denied giving such instructions.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the largest since the 1986 Chernobyl event, took place in March 2011 and resulted in three nuclear meltdowns and a leak of radioactive materials. The accident prompted a nationwide shutdown of all nuclear power plants in Japan with Sendai being the first to start working again in August 2015.
Since radiation-induced cancers and deaths take a long time to manifest, the public outcry has been largely muted.