Japanese government to fund underground wall at Fukushima Daiichi as more criminal charges filed against TEPCO

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An aerial view shows TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its contaminated water storage tanks in Fukushima

For the last two and a half years, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been pumping water into the crippled reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi in an effort to keep melted nuclear fuel cool somewhere inside of the buildings.  Over the course of time the utility has built more than 1,000 storage tanks for more than 335,000 tons of contaminated water, but contaminated water cannot be permanently stored in tanks.  Recently, TEPCO has acknowledged that many of these tanks are now leaking contaminated water into the environment.

TEPCO and the Japanese government are planning to create an underground wall two miles long by freezing the soil up to 100 feet deep around the damaged buildings to prevent the flow of groundwater in and out of the buildings and becoming contaminated.  A senior ministry official admitted that the Japanese government plans to shoulder the full costs of the operation, which are projected to be around $470 million.  The projected is currently estimated to be completed by March 2015, but that date and the final price may both be adjusted down the road.

Many experts have come forward with concerns about the new planned project.  They have expressed concerns about the technology, the operational costs, and the long-term use plan – as the decommissioning process is expected to take at least another sixty years.  Traditionally, frozen walls have normally been installed and used for a couple years at most.  Additionally, the underground wall will not be ready for at least 2 years, and in the meantime contaminated water will continue to leak out.

In the meantime, TEPCO, still plans to pump up and flush groundwater into the sea; before it becomes contaminated.  The utility has estimated that 1,000 tons of groundwater rushes into the complex every day.  The worry with that statement is that TEPCO has not released the details of if they will test the water prior to dumping it into the ocean to ensure that it is not contaminated.  If Japan plans to release contaminated water into the ocean, even if the radioactive substances are filtered to within safety limits, the government will still be forced to justify its actions to the international community.

Japan’s nuclear safety regulator has blamed TEPCO for making only temporary ad-hoc fixes to the continual issues that have been plaguing them.  Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told reporters that the NRA has given both verbal and written instructions to TEPCO with recommendations for improving the situation, but also reported that TEPCO obviously failed to follow them.  The chairman promised to hold TEPCO to stricter instructions in the future as the utility has continued to struggle with dealing with the on-going crisis.  In addition to the NRA’s criticism, three residents of Fukushima Prefecture also filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO, its president, Naomi Hirose, and 30 additional executives for failure to take appropriate measures to prevent the contaminated water leaks and for the violation anti-pollution laws.  In their case, lawyers claimed that TEPCO’s main priority is to save money, and that the utility allowed the leakage to worsen after delaying to take preventative measures that would have cost more than a billion dollars and had a dramatic effect on the utility’s profit margins and stock performances.  They argue that TEPCO is still approaching the disaster with the same lack of responsibility that it did before March 11, when the utility failed to take necessary measures to protect the nuclear power facility from earthquakes and tsunamis.  Ruiko Muto, a member of the group who filed the complaint told reporters at a press conference, “We want TEPCO to recognize its criminality.”

Source: NHK

Source: JiJi Press

Source: The Japan Times

Source: Associated Press

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