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TEPCO apologizes for leak

April 11, 2013


TEPCO president apologizes for radioactive water leaks at Fukushima plant



NARAHA, Fukushima -- Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) President Naomi Hirose apologized here on April 10 for a string of accidents involving underground tanks that had been found to be leaking at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, vowing to do his utmost to deal with the ever-increasing radioactive water.

At a news conference held at TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, Hirose bowed deeply twice after saying, "We have been causing tremendous trouble. We are very sorry."

The revelations of the leakages of radioactive water from three underground cisterns followed a power outage in March, believed to have been triggered by a rat that touched a switchboard, disabling cooling systems for spent fuel pools at the Fukushima nuclear complex. The string of such mishaps has prompted observers to question the utility's ability to bring the nuclear disaster under control.

The news conference was attended by three top TEPCO executives, including Hirose and Executive Vice President Zengo Aizawa, an engineer by background. The news conference lasted for about 90 minutes -- far longer than the 30 minutes originally scheduled.

Hirose, with a drawn face, announced that the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power station would take measures to transfer contaminated water to newly-built tanks and other facilities, and at the same time check radiation levels of underground water, among other things. Hirose was bombarded with questions from reporters such as "Is there any possibility of the construction of new tanks being delayed?" and "Will sufficient steps against leaks be taken when transferring contaminated water to the tanks?" In his reply, Hirose vaguely said, "I fully understand your concerns. We will do our best."

Asked whether it is appropriate for one company alone to carry out the unprecedented task of bringing the disaster under control, Hirose said, "Those of us who know about the power station best will carry out our responsibilities."

In a drastic shift in its policy to deal with the problem, TEPCO decided to transfer all of the contaminated water in the underground tanks to aboveground tanks. But it will take about two months to build new tanks, and therefore there will be risks of further leaks until then. Such being the case, there are no prospects at all that the problem of the contaminated water will soon be resolved. There are seven underground tanks on the premises of the troubled nuclear power station, and three of them were found to be leaking.

TEPCO, worried about a lack of space to store the contaminated water, had planned to transfer polluted water from two of the three leaking underground tanks to aboveground tanks while continuing to use other underground cisterns. But the Fukushima Prefectural Government and others were fiercely opposed to the idea of using the other underground tanks while the causes of the leakages remained unidentified.

On April 10, TEPCO announced its new plan to transfer the contaminated water from all of the underground tanks to aboveground tanks, saying that the company found a site where it could build 38 new tanks, with a capacity of 500 tons each. The utility plans to prepare auxiliary tanks but it has yet to unveil the total capacity of such tanks.



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