Fukushima Plant is Leaking Radioactive Water Into the Sea
July 23, 2013 2:30 PM
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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) (
) vowed on Monday to come clean about details it had long denied or refused to confirm regarding
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,
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.
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
, 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'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 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
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.
The Asahi Shimbun
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RE: State of Emergency
7/24/2013 3:17:29 AM
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.
"Well, there may be a reason why they call them 'Mac' trucks! Windows machines will not be trucks." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer
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