April 7, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's April 7 issue.
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"How many people work in your office?"
It may need no explanation, but to help some of you understand the joke that the person asking the question was referring to the number of staff in the office, while the answer was about the workers' performance.
How many people work in the joint headquarters to deal with the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant? The office was set up by Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the head office of Tokyo Electric Power Co. four days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami so the government and TEPCO could share information to respond to the emergency.
I wonder how Kan, who chairs the headquarters, would respond to the question.
The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry was not informed in advance that TEPCO would release water contaminated with radioactive substances into the sea. Therefore, this information surely failed to reach the fishermen who would be affected. It also appears the Foreign Ministry was left in the dark, as the South Korean government sent an angry protest about not being told the water would be released.
The joint headquarters for dealing with the nuclear accident is supposed to be a place where ministry officials, staff from other government entities and TEPCO can bring their eyes, ears, mouths and brains together.
It is understandable that members of the body are suffering from accumulated fatigue, but they are not subject to the risk of radiation exposure that workers on site are facing. If the task force is experiencing internal dissent in this critical moment--with some members saying, "We didn't hear about it," and others saying, "It came as a total surprise"--the command base might as well not exist.
As far as I can see from what the task force has achieved, I would say the answer to the above joke would be even less than "about half."
(Apr. 11, 2011)