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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

"Obviously, the crisis is not yet under control"

Leakage increases doubt over TEPCO risk control



[Takashi Ito / The Yomiuri Shimbun]

A recent string of operational issues at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have called into question the company's risk management ability.

"We understand the gravity of the leakage of contaminated water," TEPCO official Masayuki Ono said somberly at a hastily arranged press conference Saturday.

The company had announced earlier that about 120 tons of water contaminated with radioactive substances had leaked from an underground storage pool at the plant.

This incident is just the latest in a series of accidents that have recently occurred at the Fukushima plant.

On March 18, the cooling system for storage pools containing spent nuclear fuel for three reactors was down for about a day. The accident was attributed to a rat that had caused a short circuit in an outdoor temporary switchboard.

To prevent a recurrence of such an incident, TEPCO on Friday began installing wire nets to protect the switchboards. On the same day, an operational error caused a loss of electricity from a switchboard. Furthermore, the trial operation of a new device to remove radioactive substances, called the Advanced Liquid Processing System, were suspended due to an oversight.

This string of accidents served to highlight the vulnerability of the equipment and devices that have been temporarily installed at the plant. It has also shone a light on TEPCO's impaired crisis management ability.

In the leakage of contaminated water, it took three days for TEPCO to start transferring the water after detecting signs indicating a problem, causing the extent of the leakage to expand.

Ono said, "It's difficult to completely prevent problems given the current situation at the Fukushima No. 1 plant."

Muneo Morokuzu, a former adjunct professor at the University of Tokyo and an expert in nuclear safety regulations, said, "TEPCO's handling of [safety] measures resembles a game of whack-a-mole."

"The required level of management for the Fukushima No. 1 plant may be beyond TEPCO's capability. It's time to review the overall decommissioning operation," Morokuzu said.


Ex-head of Diet panel probe say nuclear disaster still not under control



The former head of the Diet investigative panel on the Fukushima nuclear disaster told a House of Representatives special committee on April 8 that the crisis has still not been brought under control.

Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the panel, pointed out that a series of problems, including the leakage of water contaminated with radioactive substances from an underground water tank, have hit the plant and said, "Obviously, the crisis is not yet under control."

"There are also problems including contaminated water and a power blackout caused by a rat. Moreover, a response to victims of the crisis has not been progressing," Kurokawa said. "The world is paying close attention to how the government will respond to problems pointed out in a report compiled by the panel.

Kurokawa is one of nine former members of the Diet's fact-finding panel on the crisis at the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant who have been summoned to testify at the lower house's special committee on nuclear power. The other former member, Kenzo Oshima who now serves as a member of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), did not attend the session.

Lawyer Shuya Nomura urged the Diet to actively get involved in efforts to bring the crippled power plant under control. "Is it all right to leave the response to contaminated water and other problems to the discretion of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the executive branch of the government? As representatives of the people, Diet members should have expertise and get involved in the response with the mindset of the general public."

The Diet special committee on nuclear power was set up in January this year with the aim of supervising the NRA and its secretariat.

In a report it issued in July last year, the investigative panel recommended that the Diet set up a standing committee on nuclear power on the grounds that the legislative branch should constantly supervise the government's nuclear power policy. However, it took nine months before the Diet convened the special committee on April 8 because of a conflict between ruling and opposition parties.

The report issued by the Diet's fact-finding panel in July 2012 recognized the accident at the tsunami-hit atomic power station as "a man-made calamity." It also criticized the now defunct nuclear regulatory bodies -- the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission -- for being "captive to electric power companies."


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