8 Avril 2013
April 8, 2013
[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.