Naomi Hirose, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that the utility was wrong in not acknowledging that radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was leaking into the ocean for more than a month, and that the primary blame lay on lax risk management of the radioactive water. Hirose acknowledged that TEPCO officials had suspected contaminated groundwater was moving into the Pacific for more than a month before the announcement on July 22nd, but were concerned about worrying the public and facing the ire of local fishermen. Hiroshi Kishi, the chief of Japan’s national federation of fisheries stated that the utility had betrayed the public after denying the leaks for more than two years despite spikes in radiation levels found in underground and ocean water samples.
“Rather than proactively inform the public of potential risks, we retreated to negative thinking and tried to gather more data to ensure there was a problem because it was going to be a major announcement,” Hirose told the press. “We’ve been trying to reform, but we repeated the same mistake. Obviously, our effort is not enough. We are really sorry.”
The president of the utility said they knew water was leaking into the ocean after the discovery of strontium and tritium in a monitoring well between the crippled reactor buildings and the ocean. NHK has reported that TEPCO officials were scared to admit the leaks because of concerns that the information would “deal a blow to the local fishing industry.”
“There are many points I regret,” Hirose said, later vowing that the utility would share information faster with the public in the future. According to TEPCO reports, the president and vice-president of the utility will incur a 10% salary cut for one month of their salaries as a penalty for not immediately disclosing the leak.
Multiple experts have pointed out the timing of the Japanese elections and TEPCO’s announcement, wondering if the public had received confirmation earlier if it would have prevented Prime Minister Abe from retaining authority. In the words of a professor at the Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, “Most marine experts who have studied the effect of the Fukushima disaster on surrounding ocean areas hold the view that radioactive water has been leaking from the plant. It’s common sense.”
This is not the first time TEPCO has been criticized for delayed disclosure of serious problems at the crippled nuclear power plant and with their track-record it is unlikely that it will be the last, despite the promises put forward by Hirose. It is also a far cry from the claims of Barbara Judge, the newly appointed deputy chairman of TEPCO’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee on July 4th, when she told Bloomberg that the utility’s standards would be the highest in the world. Once again, the choices that TEPCO has made have indicated that they are incapable of handling the seemingly-endless cascade of problems at Fukushima Daiichi, the question now becomes who could do better and how long before they are allowed to do so?
Source: Business Week
Source: Associated Press