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Radioactive water crisis out of control at Fukushima

Japan’s leaky nuclear plant, No end in sight The Fukushima nightmare lingers Aug 24th 2013 | TOKYO   THE agonising efforts to clean up the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hit new obstacles this week. On August 21st the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said that leaks of radioactive water were a level three, or “serious”, incident on a scale that goes up to seven. Some help from American experts aside, Japan has been dealing with the disaster itself. Now, even Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), the plant’s owner, would welcome foreign help.

TEPCO is under intense fire at home. It “has no sense of crisis at all”, grumbled Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, as the leaks worsened. Another NRA commissioner questioned whether TEPCO’s data could even be trusted. After months of denial, the firm has only just admitted that contaminated water is leaking into the Pacific. China and South Korea have both expressed concern.

The plant’s melted reactor cores are tainting both the hundreds of tonnes of water pumped into them each day and the groundwater, producing vast quantities of radioactive liquid. After underground pools leaked, TEPCO has hastily built around 1,000 surface storage tanks. Several are leaking from joints sealed with plastic. The most recent leak, of 300 tonnes, prompted the NRA alert. Experts say many more tanks are at risk.

A shortage of cash may have heightened the crisis. TEPCO faces massive bills for replacement fuels and compensating evacuees. It failed to install even the most basic system to monitor water leaks. Its workers stand on tanks and memorise water levels. The NRA this week ordered TEPCO to install water gauges at once. “What’s needed is tanks with stainless-steel seals, but that would take time and money,” says Neil Hyatt, professor of radioactive-waste management at the University of Sheffield.

Another explanation for the neglect at Fukushima Dai-ichi is that Japan, under the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party, is rushing to turn its nuclear reactors back on. All but two are now closed. Importing energy hits Japan’s trade balance as well as TEPCO. Instead of scrutinising the operator’s jerry-rigged water tanks, the NRA has been busy drafting new safety regulations. Public opposition already meant that restarting reactors would cause a big fight. With Fukushima Dai-ichi ever more visibly out of control, Japan’s energy conundrum just got worse.

August 23, 2013 - Posted by | Fukushima 2013, Resources -audiovicual

1 Comment »

  1. Is a person — who knowingly continues performing acts which if continued will cause death — insane? …irrational?
    If that person refuses to consider the end consequence of the act, is that person responsible for the deaths? Is deliberate ignorance excusable, for a person who exercises authority to commit such acts?

    Comment by troneill | August 23, 2013 | Reply

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