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Tokyo Power company had deep Yakuza ties, ignored warnings from its most senior engineers

A petulant Tokyo Electric Power Comp. (TEPCO) (TPE:9501) vowed on Monday to come clean about details it had long denied or refused to confirm regarding radiation leakage from its Fukushima nuclear power plant and employee exposure to radiation.

I. TEPCO Owns up to Leakage Lies

Masayuki Ono, the company's spokesman, at a regular monthly news conference, confirmed for the first time that TEPCO was aware of the leakage of radioactive water into the sea and groundwater.  TEPCO had previously denied that any radioactive waste had reached the sea even as radiation began to spike in sea and groundwater samples.  The company was eventually forced to begin to revise its tune in May after a coastal well sample showed abnormal levels of dangerously radioactive Caesium-137, a "sticky" radioisotope with a half-life of 30 years.

The company claims that most of the leakage entered the groundwater shortly after the March 2011 meltdown of reactors at the southern Fukushima "Daiichi" plant.  It claims that its preventive efforts have since blocked significant amounts of additional radiation from leaking out of the sealed shells of the ruined reactors.

Fukushima disaster
The smoldering remains of a Fukushima reactor. [Image Source: Reuters]

TEPCO believes that a large amount of leaked material, though, is still lingering in the ground table near the plant.  There's concern that tides and rainwater may eventually wash that contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean bay near the plant.

On Monday TEPCO also revealed that it is embarking on a complex strategy to try to block the wastewater from reaching the ocean.  The plan involves injecting chemicals into the ground near the coast to solidify it, in an attempt to block the flow of contaminated ground water.

Mr. Masayuki, in his company's mea culpa, remarked, "We are very sorry for causing concerns. We have made efforts not to cause any leak to the outside, but we might have failed to do so."

The company also admitted that the amount of employees exposed to dangerous doses of radiation was much higher than previously published.  TEPCO admits 10 percent of its plant workers -- 1,972 total employees -- had radiation doses of 100 millisieverts (mSv) or more, roughly 10 times the "safe" radiation limit.  All of these employees now face elevated risks of cancer.  TEPCO refutes, though, numbers from a 2012 World Health Organization (WHO) report which indicated roughly a third of workers -- 178 of 522 checked -- were exposed to >100 mSv (~34%) doses.

II. Managers Tied to Yakuza, May Face Criminal Negligence Charges

Currently fish and seafood from the Fukushima region is banned from sale, both domestically and internationally.  That ban has cost the local economy millions, if not billions of dollars in losses.  

An estimated 1T ¥ ($13B USD) will be required to decontaminate large areas of land surrounding the plant.  The area surrounding the plant, once heavily populated, is now largely abandoned.  The city of Fukushima in total lost an estimated 60,000 residents -- or roughly 20 percent of the population -- has left the region.

TEPCO manager
TEPCO's greedy/incompetent managers, like VP Sakae Muto rejected engineers' safety advice and purposefully maintained a dangerously unsafe design to pad their profits.
[Image Source: Reuters/Toru Hanai]

Analyses indicated that meltdown of the 40-year old reactors could have been avoided if business people at TEPCO had merely agreed to follow the advice of their engineers.  In a 2007 report the company's senior safety engineer warned that there was a 10 percent chance per decade of a tsunami sweeping over the 6-foot floodwall.  The report advised either switching to waterproof backup generators or raising the wall to prevent a total loss of power and subsequent catastrophic meltdown.

But TEPCO's managers were too greedy and incompetent to heed that warning from their technical experts and called the risk "acceptable".  In fact, in 2012 it was revealed that TEPCO had ties to the Yakuza -- a criminal Mafia-like organization in Japan.  Local ring leader Makoto Owada had supplied workers to the Fukushima plant since at least 2007, taking a cut of their earnings.

TEPCO chairman
TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata's has been tied to criminal Yakuza dealings.  He and his fellow managers may face criminal charges for negligence. [Image Source: AFP]

Japanese officials are currently probing the Fukushima situation trying to decide whether to charge TEPCO officials with criminal negligence, a crime which carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment under the island nation's penal code.

Source: The Asahi Shimbun

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State of Emergency
By freedom4556 on 7/23/2013 3:37:35 PM , Rating: 3
What I don't understand is that if the company is really being uncooperative, then why doesn't the Japanese government seize the property and do proper decontamination. 100 mSv isn't good, but radiation poisoning doesn't start till 400 typically ( That's only for reactor employees though. I wonder what
abnormal levels of dangerously radioactive Caesium-137
means though. That's not really a number. In the old DailyTech article they mention
1501 atoms of radioactive sulfur in sulfate particles per cubic meter of air. They mentioned that this was the highest they had seen in two years of observations and recordings.
Fifteen thousand atoms aren't going to give anybody cancer. Also, why haven't they moved the spent fuel off-site to secure storage yet? It seems to me that they cannot keep them cool at their present location, and are just making a heavy water leaking mess. They should get them into dry storage casks at least.

RE: State of Emergency
By sailor68 on 7/24/2013 3:17:29 AM , Rating: 2
The government doesn't take control because they don't have the capability of managing this issue from a technical depth perspective. Remember that the first response to the crisis was to send in police riot trucks with water cannons to spray water into the shattered reactor buildings, and later to send the Tokyo fire department. The regulator (their equivalent of our NRC) had fled the site long before that point. There was no specialized government capability to handle a crisis of this magnitude in place, and there still is not 2 years on. Second, from a political perspective this is a toxic football. Its easier to prop up the operator and flog them in the press from a distance when things go poorly than taking direct responsibility.

Regarding the removal of spent fuel, extraction is difficult because high radiation levels in the vicinity of the reactor buildings mean that workers cannot operate close in without receiving lethal doses of radiation. They have to create and construct specialized machinery to reach and extract fuel assemblies. Because TEPCO is so cheap, they don't want to pay for dry casks, and plan to move the assemblies to an existing storage pool on site.

RE: State of Emergency
By NAVAIR on 7/24/2013 7:48:54 AM , Rating: 2
The 10 CFR (US Code of Federal Regulations) states that a radiation occupational worker can get a maximum dose of 5 rem a year or in the US Navy, the limit is 250 mrem. One sievert is equal to 100 rem. So the workers received twice the yearly doseage or 40 times the USN allowable limit. The USN`s max per hour doseage for a radiation occupational worker is 2 mrem, if the dose the workers received was over a hour they had greater than 10,000 times the allowable limit.

RE: State of Emergency
By NAVAIR on 7/24/2013 7:52:15 AM , Rating: 2
My source is gray matter. I was a RSO ( radiation safety officer) on USS xxxxxxxxx.

RE: State of Emergency
By half_duplex on 7/24/2013 2:17:01 PM , Rating: 2
I was RSO for an civil engineering firm using Troxler soil density gauges.

I had to take an 8 hour course and swab the Troxler ever so often.

RE: State of Emergency
By NAVAIR on 7/24/2013 6:37:42 PM , Rating: 2
My school focused on commercial xray,gama radiography, physiological effects, health records, Naval Regulations and federal law. It was worth 6 college credits.

RE: State of Emergency
By maugrimtr on 7/24/2013 8:55:14 AM , Rating: 2
Fifteen thousand atoms aren't going to give anybody cancer. Also, why haven't they moved the spent fuel off-site to secure storage yet? It seems to me that they cannot keep them cool at their present location, and are just making a heavy water leaking mess. They should get them into dry storage casks at least.

That's per cubic meter. How long can you hold your breath? Maximum volume of your lungs is around 3 liters (bear with the metric system for a moment). There are 1000 liters in a cubic meter. You breathe perhaps 30 times per minute normally. If you do the math, that means your lungs take in 1,501 atoms of radioactive sulfer over 12 minutes. Let's round it up to 15 mins (you won't breath at maximum capacity all the time!).

That makes 6000 radioactive atoms an hour, 144,000 in a day, 52.5 million in a year.

Each atom represents a chance of gene damage giving rise to a sustainable cancer.

RE: State of Emergency
By BRB29 on 7/25/2013 8:21:21 AM , Rating: 2
Your estimate does not take into account many things.

1. Your don't breathe at 80% normally. You actually breathe at like 20-30%. I know, I did the air volume test for normal breath and full breath.
2. I don't breathe 30 times per minute if I'm not in elevated physical activity. In fact, nobody does unless they have respiratory problems or high blood pressure. The normal breathing rate is usually around 5-20 per min for most people.
3. You breathe back some of the air you breathed out.
4. Radiation risk is not just based on exposure, it is based on exposure and how fast your body can repair the damaged cells. So until radiation pass the level that your body can repair itself, your risk actually does not rise.
5. Radiation is not really atoms...but 52.5 million a year is really not a lot when you're looking at atomic and subatomic particles.

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