Japanese government pledges to support TEPCO clean up Fukushima Daiichi groundwater contamination

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According to an official from Tokyo Electric, it has been estimated that some 400 tons of contaminated water breaches underground barriers and continues leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but the utility cannot confirm the exact volume of contaminated groundwater that is escaping.  The utility has also not acknowledged the source of the contamination, but has released reports which assume all of the water is contaminated, which has continued fueling speculation.

TEPCO has estimated that rising water levels in the underground passages beneath the reactor buildings could reach the surface within weeks after breaching an underground barrier put in place by the utility.  The utility has also admitted that it has failed to respond effectively enough to groundwater contamination issues because it has been focusing on cooling the melted nuclear fuel in the damaged reactors.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to increase the central governments’ efforts to mitigate the contaminated water escaping from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific Ocean and tapped the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi as the official in charge of the situation.

“It is an urgent problem,” Abe said. “We will not leave this to Tepco, but put together a government strategy. We will direct Tepco to make sure there is a swift and multi-faceted approach in place.”  Abe also asked the Nuclear Regulation Authority to come up with effective measures.

Tatsuya Shinkawa, a director in METI’s Nuclear Accident Response Office, told reporters the government believed highly contaminated water had been leaking for two years.

The ministry official said that the Japanese government plans to reduce the leak to some 60 tons per day by December, but did not provide any clear information that would back up those claims.  The Japanese central government said it would make more funds available to address the contaminated water flow and also work with TEPCO to pump out groundwater to reduce the leakage, but admitted that even removing the groundwater would not necessarily prevent the contaminated water from leaking into the ocean.

Source: Bloomberg

Source: Wall Street Journal

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