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article imageOp-Ed: Gross incompetence at Fukushima — Is an apology enough?

By Karen Graham     Feb 26, 2015 in Environment
Fukushima - It was discovered on Tuesday that a drainage ditch moving runoff water from the contaminated roof of Sector 2 at Fukushima was transporting water rich in cesium together with rain into the sea, with radiation levels 20 times higher than at the plant.
But the real shocker with this story is that the "leak" was discovered in May 2014, and never reported to anyone. Local fishermen reacted in disbelief at the news when officials with Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) gave a news conference on Thursday.
"This was part of an ongoing investigation in which we discovered a water puddle with high levels of radiation on top of the Reactor No. 2 building, and because this also happens to be one of the sources for this drainage system, we decided to report everything all at once."
TEPCO had reported earlier in the week that sensors rigged to the gutter that poured groundwater and rainwater into the bay had detected radiation contamination levels 70 times higher than the already high levels seen at the power plant's campus. Officials said they checked the tanks storing nuclear waste water but didn't find any problems, but they shut the gutter's flow off to prevent any of the contaminated water from going into the Pacific Ocean.
Of course, on Thursday, monitoring systems on the bay close to the plant didn't show any spikes in contamination but remember, the gutter's flow had been shut off earlier in the week. Even so, company officials said they decided not to report the information because the ocean had not been impacted. Not been impacted? The prefecture's fishermen don't believe it and neither do I.
“I don’t understand why [TEPCO] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked,” Masazuku Yabuki, chief of a local fisheries cooperative in Fukushima Prefecture, told the plant’s operator at a meeting, according to the Japan Times on Thursday.
The apologies were profuse, with Naohiro Masuda, president of Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co. saying, “To make progress with the decommissioning effort and solve the tainted water issue, the trust of the people in Fukushima is the most important thing. We’ve been working with that in mind, but unfortunately, we have damaged that trust this time." He continued to pepper the news conference with repeated apologies.
This latest incident, like all the others that have plagued the crippled nuclear power plant since the disastrous meltdown and explosions following the 2011 tsunami, have all ended with profuse apologies by company officials, as if words will make everything all better. While a polite apology may be warranted, allowing radioactive contaminated water to flow into the ocean for almost 10 months is criminal.
Additionally, a perusal of Fukushima Daiichi Status Updates, supplied to the International Atomic Energy Commission on a weekly basis, show the same reports, week after week: "Radioactivity in water near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant has remained low and stable from 25 to 31 January 2015, according to the regular update and sea area monitoring results provided by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) to the IAEA." The only data change is the week in question.
While TEPCO swears it wasn't hiding the fact that abnormally high levels of toxic rainwater was leaking from the drainage ditch into the seas since last spring, Masuda said the lack of a visible impact in seawater samples taken one kilometer from the drainage site made the company feel it was not necessary to divulge the information.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
More about fukushima nuclear plant, politr apologies, TEPCO, Pacific ocean, Fishermen
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