Fukushima: Which Is It? “Certain level of success” or “crisis still not resolved”?

Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, reports CNN, isn’t too sanguine.

“The crisis has still not been resolved, and the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains very serious,” Yukiya Amano, the director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told its board of governors Monday after a visit to the site. “Buildings have been damaged by explosions,” he said. “There has, for the most part, been no electric power. Radiation levels are elevated. It is no exaggeration to describe the work of the emergency teams as heroic.”

Still, reports the Wall Street Journal, to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, their success bringing down the temperature in the reactors represents “a certain level of success.” WSJ agrees.

Japan appears to have turned the tide in its battle to stave off nuclear disaster, restoring power to parts of the Fukushima Daiichi plant and bringing down radiation levels with a marathon water-spraying operation. . . . Fighting its way through rubble in heavy protective gear, the [Tokyo fire department's] Hyper Rescue Squad poured [the] equivalent to dumping an entire Olympic-size swimming pool on the No. 3 reactor’s area for spent fuel. . . . From the start, the battle at Fukushima Daiichi was about water. Without a way to pump large quantities into the plant, Tepco suffered a daily parade of disasters in the early days.

Why the wait? As I posted earlier

Last night on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Jeffrey Merrifield mentioned that the Japanese made a critical mistake in overlooking the evaporating pool problem while attending to more pressing matters (presumably the explosions). As a consequence what seems like the simplest task — keeping pools filled with water after the pump has broken — has snowballed into a national emergency.

To give the Japanese their due, even though it was just water — with which the region was, of course, inundated — supplying it to the reactors proved was more difficult than one would think.

Officials later learned that Tepco had already sought to borrow some of the squad’s vehicles. According to Mr. Ishihara, squad members drove up to Fukushima but had to come back to Tokyo after it became clear that the vehicles were too complex for Tepco’s in-house firefighters to operate.

At a news conference, Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said “It’s such a shame we had wasted a lot of time.”

Americans might gloat that such inefficiency in the face of a disaster could never happen here. But, as many have already pointed out, six years ago our tardy and fragmented response to Hurricane Katrina — George Bush or no — gave the lie to that national myth. Anyway, a hyper, hyper hooray to the Hyper Rescue Squad.