Fukushima: Wheels Coming off a Rolling Catastrophe
August 24, 2013
The crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima is losing its two-year battle to contain radioactive water leaks and its owner emphasized for the first time it needs overseas expertise to help contain the disaster.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) is grappling with the worst spill of contaminated water since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. The call for help from Zengo Aizawa, a vice president at the utility, follows a leak of 300 metric tons of irradiated water. Japan’s nuclear regulator labeled the incident “serious” and questioned Tepco’s ability to deal with the crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made similar comments earlier this month.
A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.
Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.
He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.
Meanwhile the chairman of Japan’s nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.
The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.
The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.
This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.
But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.
Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.
“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.
“What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.