23 Mar 2011

Japanese nuclear power plant: friend of foe?

Chief Correspondent

A nuclear plant in Japan, which is experiencing problems after the quake and tsunami, has taken in hundreds of local people who are homeless after the disaster. Alex Thomson tries to get inside to find out the full story but is denied access.

First of all the good news from Japan – although I have to warn you that the goodness rather goes off in the course of this blog.

As ever, our amazing fixer Hiro thought she had a good story this morning. She did.

How about this? A Japanese nuclear power station damaged by the quake and tsunami which is being used to take evacuees in – rather that evacuate from.

All in all this seemed a long way from Fukushima and all the hysteria etc.

So off we went heading north from Sendai. Within an hour or two we were snaking through the idyllic coastline of this part of Japan.

Picture the west coast of Scotland at its best and you may have some idea. Pine forests, snaking roads around deep clear sea inlets and a scattering of islands wherever you look towards the Pacific. Oh – and bamboo forests too.

It’s through this country at the end of a long peninsula that the Onagawa reactor lies.

Read more: Japan –  tsunami to nuclear crisis

We roll up at the gate assuming this good news story would be there for the taking. Not so. Unusually in Japan we were prevented from filming anywhere near the front gates in no uncertain terms.

The first signs that perhaps things were not quite as billed. Suffice to say several hours passed driving various roads only to find them blocked or washed away.

We discussed hiring a boat – but the boats are all wrecked. In the end there was a fair bit of hiking and climbing of trees but in the end we got the shots we needed of the nuclear plant hemmed in by the Pacific and deep forests.

By now it became clear that all is not quite well in the plant. There are reports of leaking water and oil in two of the three reactors. A hurried press release was eventually offered to us but still no way we could film the evacuees living with the reactors.

We did speak to two and there are 240 currently in residence. Both understandably grateful that the power plant had offered shelter in an extraordinary storm, even though one – a fisherman, said he was against nuclear power.

So to that where are we? Well first off not panicking about this. But there is now a second plant with some kind of problem and no interest in inviting the media in to see – unlike the locals to whom they’ve been so generous.