1,500 valves used to control the flow of radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant remain unlabeled with tags to indicate its use. The discovery showed how lax the safety measures put up by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. are even after three years since the meltdown triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The tags are essential in labeling the valves so workers in the plant would know which pipes or equipment they are connected to such as pumps and contaminated water storage tanks. This way, the workers would not accidentally release radioactive water at the wrong place and further increase the spread of radioactive water. All nuclear power plants across Japan label their valves with a tag even though it is not required by law because doing so is “essential to prevent operational errors,” said a government official in charge of radioactive water measures. Valves at the Fukushima plant, which are around 5,000, are labeled with numbered tags. TEPCO began attaching the tags October 21 last year and only 3,500 have been fastened on the valves. A remaining 30 percent or 1,500 valves remain unlabeled and the utility company estimates it to be completed by June 27.
A spokesperson from TEPCO said despite the lack of tags on the pipes, the company “was able to identify the valves that have to be operated based on piping drawings.” He further commented that “it took time to identify valves (that have to be operated)” so they were only able to start the fastening the labels last autumn. They decided to add tags to the valves as “there was a need to lower the risk of erroneous operations.” However, the Democratic Party of Japan blamed TEPCO’s failure to attach the tags to a series of contaminated water leaks recently. Yuichiro Tamaki from the DPJ brought the issue up during the session of the Lower House Committee on Economy, Trade and Industry on March 26.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]
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