24 Juillet 2013
July 23, 2013
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) finally admitted on July 22 that radiation-tainted water has been seeping from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea.
Highly contaminated water was first found in an existing observation well at the nuclear plant on June 3. On numerous occasions since then, an increase in radiation levels had been measured in the sea and high concentrations of radioactive materials were detected in a new observation well, raising suspicions of leaks. But in an opinion on the cause of the increased levels, TEPCO had previously explained, "When contaminated water leaked from the vicinity of an intake of the No. 2 reactor in April 2011, right after the outbreak of the nuclear accident, some of it remained in the ground. We haven't seen any significant impact on the environment."
Contaminated water has continued to accumulate at a rate of 400 metric tons per day as a result of groundwater entering damaged reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant. As of July 16, roughly 75,000 tons of water had accumulated in the No. 1-4 rector buildings. To reduce the amount of water building up, TEPCO initially planned to release groundwater that had not yet been contaminated into the sea, thereby limiting the amount of groundwater entering the reactor buildings.
However, small amounts of radioactive materials were detected in the groundwater, and local fisheries cooperatives objected to the plan due to fears it would spark harmful rumors about local marine resources. In the end the plan was derailed. Now, having admitted to a leak of contaminated water, the fishing industry's trust in TEPCO could diminish further.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) pointed out this month that there were strong suspicions contaminated water had seeped into the sea. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka stated, "Contamination of the sea, to a greater or lesser extent, is continuing," suggesting it was possible that contaminated water that had leaked from reactor buildings had mixed with groundwater and was flowing toward the sea.
On July 22, TEPCO finally released its analysis of data on the sea level and the water level in a buried observation well near the sea. This overturned previous views on the situation. The company had reported the data to the NRA on July 18.
Seiji Abe, a Kansai University professor familiar with public utilities, criticized TEPCO's handling of the situation.
"Its response damaged trust that urgently needed to be restored, and its actions were extremely problematic," he said. "The company still probably hasn't come to the realization that the monopoly it has had has created a wide gap between its reasoning and the public's demands."
The government has been involved in creating a roadmap to decommission the damaged reactors at the Fukushima plant. However, it has not had a direct hand in any onsite work.
"TEPCO is the one that's working on the scene," an official from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry commented.
On the evening of July 22, Takeshi Takahashi, chief of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant stabilization center, visited officials at the Fukushima Prefectural Government headquarters including Tetsuya Hasegawa, head of the living environment department, and explained the leaks.
"We apologize for causing concern. We'll take measures to prevent further leaks into the sea," Takahashi said.
Hasegawa responded with a demand that TEPCO take proper measures to stop radioactive materials leaking into the sea and identify the cause of the leak.
July 23, 2013(Mainichi Japan)
Fishermen in Fukushima angry at TEPCO over leak
Fishermen in Fukushima have expressed anger at Tokyo Electric Power Company's acknowledgement on Monday that contaminated underground water is seeping into the ocean.
About 100 fishermen attended a private briefing session on Tuesday by the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Officials from the utility reportedly said the contaminated water hasn't spread much. They also explained their plan to build walls along the coast to prevent tainted water from leaking into the ocean.
Some fishermen reportedly said Tokyo Electric Power Company officials may have deliberately concealed the information. Others said they cannot trust the firm.
Fishermen are also worried about the impact of the announcement on their plan to resume fishing on a trial basis in September.
The head of a local fisheries cooperative said they will not be able to reassure consumers by drawing a line in the sea to separate safe and contaminated areas.
He said TEPCO's announcement has dealt a serious blow to their plan to resume fishing.
Jul. 23, 2013 - Updated 10:36 UTC
FUKUSHIMA--Fukushima prefectural officials blasted Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s belated admission that radioactive water was leaking into the ocean from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, even though the utility knew in January that water from a contaminated well had a direct channel to the sea.
TEPCO publicly admitted July 22 for the first time since suspicions emerged in June that radioactive substances from the reactors had likely leaked into the ocean.
The admission came after the utility announced June 19 that it had detected increased levels of radioactive substances in monitoring wells on the ocean side of the hobbled plant--a discovery it had sat on since May 31. It also knew months earlier before the confirmation that the wells where the radioactivity was detected were fluctuating in sync with tide levels.
TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters blamed the delay on announcing its findings on insufficient in-house communication.
"Our civil engineering department had confirmed water level variations in monitoring wells as early as in January," an official of the Revitalization Headquarters told the news conference on July 22, referring to the fact that such variations indicated that groundwater was likely mixing with seawater. That means contaminated groundwater had access to the sea. "But that information was not shared by our department responsible for monitoring radioactive levels."
The Fukushima prefectural government July 22 summoned TEPCO representatives to its offices to lodge a protest.
"It is truly regrettable that the insufficient sharing of in-house information resulted in a delay in safety measures being taken," the director-general of the prefectural government's Living and Environment Department, Tetsuya Hasegawa, told Takeshi Takahashi, head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant stabilization center, and other TEPCO representatives.
Hasegawa also called on TEPCO to take measures to prevent further leaks and to strengthen its monitoring operations.
"The people of Fukushima become more anxious every time they hear of more safety failures," he told the TEPCO representatives. "Please put that thought at the very center of your mind as you try to fix this situation."
Tetsu Nozaki, who heads the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, also voiced a renewed sense of distrust in the power company.
"Never have I felt so shocked since we first learned during the early phases of the nuclear disaster that radioactive water was leaking into the ocean," he said.
Nozaki said the fishermen's union had held discussions with TEPCO on measures to stop radioactive water from contaminating the ocean before the most recent admission.
"That premise is gone, and we now face a totally different situation," he said. "Before anything else, I want them to make every effort to stop the leaks as soon as possible."