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TEPCO overwhelmed - What is Gov't waiting for?

 August 9, 2013


EDITORIAL: Total overhaul needed of way TEPCO operates



The central government has decided to use public funds to contain the problem of radioactive water flowing into the ocean from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

According to the government, there is a possibility that 300 tons of contaminated water is flowing into the ocean daily. From the way TEPCO has kept falling behind in its measures to effectively deal with the problem, it is clear that the company is incapable of dealing with the situation.

Thus, it is quite natural for the government to step in. Still, the decision should have been made much earlier.

This is not to say that the problem will now be sorted out merely because the government is taking the lead. This type of project has never been attempted before and all sorts of difficulties could arise.

The authorities need to avail themselves of all conceivable wisdom and technology to stop the situation from getting any worse.

Thus, it is absolutely vital that a system be established that enables all parties concerned to promptly share information gathered on site.

Instead of leaving the actual work to TEPCO alone, the government must create a process by which it can always monitor and assess the situation, and make whatever decisions necessary, while keeping in close contact with related organizations and local governments.

There is another problem that must be dealt with promptly. TEPCO’s corporate rehabilitation plan must be subject to a fundamental review.

While the government decided to include expenses for measures to deal with the contaminated water problem in the fiscal 2014 budget, the amount makes up only a small fraction of huge expenses to be borne by TEPCO and is no more than a stopgap remedy.

Under the existing framework, TEPCO must single-handedly shoulder all expenses--costs to deal with the accident, compensation and financial support for those affected by the disaster, and expenses for decontamination work and future decommissioning of the crippled reactors. The process has long been in deadlock.

TEPCO is planning to seek permission to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture in accordance with the existing rehabilitation plan. This is an outrageous idea, given what is happening in Fukushima. It beggars belief that TEPCO is even considering it.

TEPCO’s responsibility must not be alleviated in any way.

That said, TEPCO is confronted by massive burdens that far exceed its capability. If the situation is left unattended, it could have a negative effect on the reconstruction of stricken areas and the power supply to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

What part of the existing setup is unreasonable? How much money will be needed in the future? Who should shoulder the expenses and how? It is time for the government to squarely face reality and discuss these issues. At the same time, it must scrupulously disclose every scrap of information on the issue.

Whatever happens, an additional injection of taxpayers' money will be unavoidable. That being the case, the government needs to go back to the starting point of the debate on liquidating insolvent TEPCO and seeking to impose financial burdens on its creditors.

Once again, we realize the huge impact of the Fukushima disaster on the lives of citizens. In the face of hard facts, it is clear how the Abe administration must deal with the situation.

It must abandon its stance of promoting nuclear power generation and clearly show how Japan can reduce its dependence on nuclear power plants.

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