26 Août 2013
August 26, 2013
Japan may use emergency reserve funds from this year's budget to help Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, deal with escalating radioactive water problems at the site.
TEPCO acknowledged last week that hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water had leaked from a tank, one of around 350 assembled quickly after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns at the site.
The tanks are used to store water pumped through the reactors to keep fuel in the melted cores from overheating.
The latest revelation is the most serious problem in a series of recent mishaps, including power outages, contaminated workers and other leaks.
TEPCO also said last month--after repeated denials--that the Fukushima plant was leaking contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean from trenches between the reactor buildings and the shoreline.
"It's deplorable," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference on Aug. 26. "It is necessary for the country to step forward and offer support to solve the problem as well as prevent a recurrence."
Suga said trade and industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi had been instructed to come up with measures, including the possible use of reserve funds from the state budget for the year ending March 2014.
Japan put aside a total of 350 billion yen ($3.55 billion) in reserves for natural disasters and other emergencies in the budget.
Motegi and TEPCO President Naomi Hirose will visit the Fukushima site later on Aug. 26.
Japan is under increasing pressure to contain the toxic water problem at the plant.
The new crisis comes as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is pitching the country's nuclear technology abroad to countries like Turkey, promising that its nuclear reactor makers have learned vital safety lessons from the disaster.
TEPCO shares fell as much as 10 percent on Aug. 26 to their lowest in 12 weeks.
On Aug. 25, Chinese government said it was paying close attention to developments at Fukushima, noting it has the right to request entry into waters near the facility to conduct checks and assess the impact of the nuclear accident on the Western Pacific.
The country's State Oceanic Administration said it hadn't found any evidence of a "direct impact" from radiation on Chinese waters, but will closely monitor developments.
Reserve funds may be used on Fukushima plant
Japan's industry minister says the government may use public funds to prevent further leakage of radioactive groundwater from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the sea.
Toshimitsu Motegi spoke to reporters on Monday after inspecting the crippled plant.
He visited the area where contaminated groundwater is being pumped out to prevent it from seeping into the ocean.
He also viewed the site where about 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked from one of the plant's storage tanks.
Motegi instructed plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company to take several measures. These include enhanced monitoring of the tanks and installing more welded tanks. The storage tank that leaked was made of steel plates attached by bolts rather than by welding.
Motegi told reporters that so far the government has let the operator deal with the situation each time a problem has come up. But he said that from now on, the government will take full charge.
Motegi said the government will also consult with fiscal authorities on the possibility of using this year's reserve funds to build an underground frozen soil wall to stop contaminated groundwater from leaking into the ocean.
JIJI, AP, Kyodo
The government is considering using reserves from the fiscal 2013 budget to deal with the leaks of radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday.
Suga said he has instructed industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi to pursue all possible measures to deal with the leaks, including the money.
Motegi, who visited the plant Monday for an inspection, said Tepco’s lax maintenance was largely to blame for the leaking storage tanks surrounding the poorly protected 40-year-old plant hit by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
He said the government would be taking charge and stepping up patrols of the tanks to prevent more problems.
Suga said the big problem is that Tepco has failed to properly manage tanks for storing contaminated water, unlike the structural factors behind the contamination of groundwater at the plant.
The building crisis involving leaks of radioactive water from the crippled plant will not hamper Japan’s bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics, Suga also said at the same press conference.
He acknowledged that Japanese diplomats have been briefing other countries on the escalating crisis at the plant, but added, “I believe this will not influence” the Olympics bid.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is scheduled to join a general meeting of the International Olympic Committee on Sept. 7 in Buenos Aires and make a final presentation for Tokyo’s bid to host the games, which Madrid and Istanbul are also seeking to host.