08Sep Fukushima radioactive leak was ‘patched up with tape’

In my book Fukushima, the Death Knell for Nuclear Energy? (2012), I make the point that  “most people expect that the people who work in running nuclear power plants are well trained and very competent.[1] Hiroko Tabuchi of The New York Times interviewed a Mr Ishizawa who was one of the thousands of untrained people who handled much of the dangerous work at Fukushima.  He is not a specialist nor is he an employees of Tepco.  Even something as rudimentary as proper clothing was not available to the majority of workers. While all the workers did have respirators, the majority wore only orange boiler suits. “Only a few of the management team wore the proper lead-lined ‘Noddly suits.’ Those in the front line of danger had only disposable overalls made of Tyvek, an artificial, non-rip fibre” [2]

Almost two-and-a-half years later incompetence is still rife.  On September 1st 2013 Tepco  revealed that it had “found highly radioactive water dripping from a pipe connecting two coolant tanks and patched it up with tape.”[3] At one point the reading was at 1,800millisieverts per hour. Radiation of this magnitude would be enough to kill a human being in less than four hours.

Public criticism of Tepco’s record has intensified in recent months. Initially, the company denied reports that groundwater leaks were taking place.  In fact, coolant water was mixing with groundwater and flowing into the sea at a rate of 300 tons per day.[4] It also emerged that there were only two workers assigned to inspect twice-daily the 1,000 storage tanks which together contain an estimated 330.000 tons of contaminated water.  People are also asking why, to date, no Tepco personnel has been held accountable for the constant accidents at the plant since March 2011.

The response of the Japanese government to the on-going saga at Fukushima has also been shambolic. On December 27, 2011, the Japanese government told Tepco to consider ceding control of the company to the Japanese government in exchange for much-needed funds to deal with the fallout  from the accident.  Two-and-a-half years later the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that, “the government has stayed in the background and extended support for Tokyo Electric’s effort to tackle the problem of contaminated water. But we’ve now decided that Tokyo Electric’s patchwork response has reached its limits, and the government needs to come forward and quickly respond , even by using budget reserves.”[5] The Chairman of the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Shunichi Tanaka told reporters that “the people at the Fukushima plant have been dealing with the post-accident situation with haphazard, stop-gap measures for several years.”[6]

In response to the growing domestic and international criticism of Tepco’s mishandling of the Fukushima disaster, the current prime minister Shinzo Abe promised on August 28th 2013 that his government would play a much greater role in stopping leaks of highly radioactive water. Four days later, on  September 2nd 2013, it was announced that the Japanese government is to spend almost £320 million in order to contain leaks and also to decontaminate the highly toxic water at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Much of the money will be spent on constructing a 1.4 kilometre-long underground frozen wall around the four damaged reactors.  The idea is to prevent groundwater from mixing with coolant water that has become contaminated after coming in contact with melted nuclear fuel. [7]

Critics of the frozen wall technology point out that it is both expensive and untested.  They also call attention to the fact that these new announcements about cleaning  up Fukushima come just ahead of the decision of the International Olympic Committee to make a choice between Tokyo, Istanbul and Madrid for hosting the 2020 Olympics.  The Guardian quotes Tsunekazu Takeda, a Japanese Olympic official, who said that the Fukushima crisis should not affect Tokyo’s  chances of staging  the games.  “There is no risk from Fukushima. Day-to-day life in Tokyo carries on as normal for 35 million people. The air and water quality is the same as most cities, like Paris, London and New York. Our main focus is to deliver a great and safe Games.[8]

 



[1] Sean McDonagh, 2012, Fukushima, The Death Knell for Nuclear Energy? Columba, page 33.

[2] ibid

[3] Kasren O’Shea, “Fukushima radioactive leak ‘patched up with tape.’ Irish Examiner, September 2, 2013, page 9.

[4] Justin McCurry, “Japan earmarks £300m+ for Fukushima cleanup,” The Guardian, September 3rd 2013.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/03/japan-ice-wall-fukushima-water/print

[5] Reuters,  Japan Vows Quick Action, Public Funds for Fukushima, New York Times, September 2, 2013.http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2013/09/02/world/asia/02reuters-japan-fukushima.html?hp&_r=0&pagewanted=print

[6] ibid

[7] Justin McCurry, “Japan earmarks £300m+ for Fukushima cleanup,” The Guardian, September 3rd 2013.

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/03/japan-ice-wall-fukushima-water/print

 

[8] ibdm.

2 Responses

  1. Joe O'Leary

    Living in Tokyo, the world’s greatest city, I am amazed at the “new verve” one tourist guide finds there, caused by Abenomics (a mysterious economic policy that has got the Japanese back in bullish mood) and apparent voluntary suspension of thinking about Fukushima (even though it’s only 250km away); Olympic euphoria will augment this.

    The lie about the personnel of nuclear plants has been exposed. The situation is the same in France, as shown in a powerful film, Grand Central. The safety of the world is in the hands of an untrained sub-proletariate, doing a job no one else wants.

  2. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    This really hits home. I live in Canada. Nova Scotia to be exact. We are very far away from the Nuclear world and it’s one of the realities of this existence that spikes my fear sensory. It spiked so much in the latter parts of 2010 that I decided to confront it and create something that would address it. Artistically I needed references to Japan, the bombing of Hiroshima/Nagasaki, the poor intelligence the US had garnered; I wrote the song as a reference to swimming against the tide but more as a refusal of daily circumstances we live with. Standing in a different place, I can’t see but a reflected fate – these four walls can’t surround me. This is part of the iron prison we all live in day to day. We are not given the opportunity to partake in the decision making that affects our lives and unfortunately, the people who do, are insane. Why insane? Because if we all weren’t insane we would see the problems happening in Japan as our own problems; our children’s children’s problems…but we don’t. We are forever the survivors of consequence and we always see this as our deliverance and are happy with this. This is a common insanity among us. Look around – do you feel like you’ve been delivered from anything yet? I hope not. This essentially makes us the victims of a dire, practically irreversible circumstance. Now the question is, who would have conceived this? Do you believe this? This is not the first time I’ve posted the link to this video on this site and for those of you who haven’t watched it, I hope you enjoy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u1B0f6CmGFs

    The artist is Mark Boutilier(Canada) – DoP is Rafael Chicha(France) – written and composed by Lloyd Allan MacPherson.

    As you will witness this video was posted on Youtube February 11, 2011 – we are in no way affiliated with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament or Global Zero yet support their platform.


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