Tokyo 2020 Olympic Bid Shadowed by Fukushima
Japan's nuclear watchdog members, including Nuclear Regulation Authority members in radiation protection suits, inspect contaminated water tanks at the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant on August 23, 2013.
Google Crisis Response Team; Google, GeoEye,
UPDATE: March 11, 2012
-- This collection of satellite images was originally produced on March 14, 2011, days after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami struck the northeast coast of Japan. The known death toll came to 15,848 with 3,305 missing. The tsunami also inundated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant causing a series of failures that led to the world's largest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The above photos show Yuriage in Natori (top); and Yagawahama (bottom) -- both are in Miyagi prefecture.
PHOTOS: Top Five Cities on Faults
Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant
Image from March 12, 2011 (before outer shell collapse).
Industrial Site Just South of Fukushima I Power Plant
Image from March 12, 2011.
ANALYSIS: Japan, One Year Later: In the Radiation Zone
Fukushima II Power Plant
Image taken in 2004. Fukushima II Power Plant is located about 7 miles south of the Fukushima I Power Plant.
The battered nuclear plant at Fukushima, where radioactive water is leaking into the ocean, hangs over Tokyo's bid for the 2020 Olympic Games.
The shadow it casts loomed even larger on Wednesday when a powerful earthquake rattled the Japanese capital, reinforcing worries at home and abroad about safety.
The 6.5-magnitude earthquake hurt no one and caused no damage -- Tokyo has some of the best quake-proofing in the world -- and the operator of the nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power, was quick to say there was no new damage.
About 600 households lost power Wednesday, however for around three hours after a tornado ripped through Yaita city, said Tokyo Electric Power. The city is located about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Tokyo.
The winds came after tornadoes injured 63 people and damaged or destroyed 110 houses in other parts of eastern Japan on Monday, with a large amount of damage in Koshigaya city, northwest of Tokyo.
But just two-and-a-half years into what could be a four-decade clean-up, the nuclear disaster sparked by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami is very much the Achilles heel of Tokyo's efforts to bag the Games.
Olympic chiefs meet in Buenos Aires on Saturday to choose between Tokyo, Madrid and Istanbul.
Supporters of Japan's bid -- chief among them Prime Minister Shinzo Abe -- insist the plant, 220 kilometers (130 miles) north of the city, poses no danger to athletes or spectators.
"Voices of concern have been raised about the waste water problem in Fukushima," said Abe, referring to a series of leaks of radioactive water, some of which has made its way into the sea.
"The government will stand at the forefront to completely fix this problem. I want to explain that this is not going to be a problem in any way in seven years' time," he said.
The Japanese government has argued that a 2020 Tokyo Olympics would inspire the world by showcasing how Japan has recovered from the triple catastrophe of March 2011.
Japan's northern Pacific coastline was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, unleashing a towering tsunami that killed more than 18,000 people.
Cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were swamped. Reactors went into meltdown and spewed radioactive materials over a tract of prime farmland.
Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from their homes; many are still unable to return.
The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.TEPCO
TEPCO has spent the last two-and-a-half years struggling to get on top of the problems at the complex.
Over the last few weeks, a steady stream of news has revealed seepage from tanks storing radioactive water, much of it used to cool molten reactor cores.
The government on Tuesday pledged to step in with a half-billion dollar plan to staunch leaks and stop groundwater from becoming polluted.
Skeptics said Tokyo was stumping up taxpayer cash to counter aggressive coverage in the foreign press and reassure the International Olympic Committee.
But supporters insist fears over Fukushima are genuinely overblown, particularly abroad.
Bid committee chief Tsunekazu Takeda has repeatedly insisted Fukushima has no impact on daily life in Tokyo and would not affect the Games.
He and others say it is safe to live, eat and drink in Japan, with produce from Fukushima and the surrounding region screened for radiation contamination.
Takeda has written to members of the IOC to persuade them "Life is completely normal" in the Japanese capital.
The current problems at Fukushima do not not affect Tokyoites, agreed Takashi Sawada, director general of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan.
"Seafood caught from the ocean is being inspected, while contaminated food is barred from the market," he said. "We should not be concerned at all."
Activists disagree, charging that cozy relationships between government, industry and regulators mean it is difficult to know the real truth.
Miwa Chiwaki, one of nearly 15,000 people who is suing TEPCO, said the situation is out of control.
"I have to question if we should really bring the Olympic Games in Tokyo," she said. "The Japanese government does not realize that the toxic water leaking is as serious as the nuclear accident itself."