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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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RE: Nice going.
By nafhan on 7/23/2013 7:48:12 PM , Rating: 4
That would likely have no effect.

Drinking the well water on the other hand... might. That wouldn't necessarily even have an effect, though. Note that they specifically use the wording "abnormally high" rather than "dangerous". To me this indicates that the source article either doesn't know or wants to intentionally misrepresent what's happened. Basically, there's not much in the way of medically interesting info in this article or the source.

RE: Nice going.
By melgross on 7/23/13, Rating: -1
RE: Nice going.
By lightfoot on 7/24/2013 9:23:10 AM , Rating: 3
You're an idiot. Radiation and its effects are well understood. There ARE levels that are considered safe, otherwise there would be no such thing as sunbathing, x-rays or air travel. All of which, when done in moderation, are completely safe.

RE: Nice going.
By Kurz on 7/24/2013 9:29:06 AM , Rating: 2
Radiation actually can have a positive effect on health.

RE: Nice going.
By zhivaji on 7/25/2013 1:27:32 PM , Rating: 2
Wish you good luck. maybe they'll turn out to be like the X-men or Fantastic four characters :-)

RE: Nice going.
By Sunrise089 on 7/24/2013 9:46:50 AM , Rating: 3
This is hilariously wrong, or would be if it didn't represent the thinking of a huge swath of the population when it comes to nuclear power.

On top of bathing in seawater having basically no impact as others have already said, the "WILL cause problems" demonstrates a misunderstanding of how increased probability of risk leads to negative outcomes. Many things increase the rate of potential harms by trivial amounts, others by non-trivial amounts. Smoking packs of cigarettes per day greatly increases the risk of some cancers, but it doesn't mean they "WILL" occur, nor does getting lung cancer mean one was a smoker.

Please stop making the faulty chain of [potentially dangerous thing]->[must be dangerous]->[something bad "WILL" happen]

RE: Nice going.
By nafhan on 7/24/2013 1:17:12 PM , Rating: 2
Uhm... "natural background" levels vary greatly, and can be dangerous (i.e. radon, skin cancer from UV, etc.).

RE: Nice going.
By DennisB on 7/24/2013 1:49:07 PM , Rating: 2
There's an age old solution: Have them (e.g. EPA) set the levels higher; problem solved. No longer alarms and news articles. Wouldn't wonder if reports use differing levels of evaluation...

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