Tainted water ills 'massive' May 28th
Saturday, May 28, 2011
Tainted water ills 'massive'
IAEA team visits plant; utility slammed for not disclosing info
As a team from the International Atomic Energy Agency was visiting the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Friday, academics warned that Tokyo Electric Power Co. has failed to disclose the scale of radiation leaks and faces a "massive problem" with contaminated water.
Tepco has been pumping cooling water into the three reactors that melted down after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. By May 18, almost 100,000 tons of radioactive water had leaked into basements and other areas of the plant, according to the utility's estimates. The radioactive water may double by the end of December.
"Contaminated water is increasing and this is a massive problem," said Tetsuo Iguchi, a specialist in isotope analysis and radiation detection at Nagoya University. "They need to find a place to store the contaminated water and they need to guarantee it won't go into the soil."
The 18-member IAEA team, led by the U.K.'s head nuclear safety inspector, Mike Weightman, is visiting the Fukushima reactors to investigate the accident and the government's response. Tepco and Japan's nuclear regulators haven't updated the total radiation leakage from the plant in since April 12.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimated in April the radiation released from the plant to be around 10 percent of that from the 1986 accident at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union, while a Tepco official said at the time the amount may eventually exceed it.
"Tepco knows more than they've said about the amount of radiation leaking from the plant," Jan van de Putte, a specialist in radiation safety trained at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands, said Thursday in Tokyo. "What we need is a full disclosure, a full inventory of radiation released, including the exact isotopes."
The government plans to release details on the radiation released at the "appropriate time," said Goshi Hosono, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan who is overseeing the crisis response and appears at daily briefings at Tepco's headquarters.
Radiation leakage from Fukushima was raised at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week. U.S. regulations may need to be changed after the Fukushima meltdown, said William Ostendorff, a member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Tepco is trying to put the reactors into a cold shutdown, where core temperatures fall below 100 degrees, within six to nine months. Ostendorff rated the chance of the company achieving this at 6 or 7 out of 10.
The utility took more than two months to confirm the meltdowns in three reactors and this week reported the breaches in the containment chambers. The delay in releasing information has led to criticism of Kan for not doing more to ensure Tepco is keeping the public informed.
"What I told the public was fundamentally incorrect," Kan said in the Diet on May 20, referring to assessments from the government and Tokyo that reactors were stable and the situation was contained not long after March 11. "The government failed to respond to Tepco's mistaken assumptions, and I am deeply sorry."