Gregory Jaczko, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) who is in Tokyo upon being invited by a Japanese anti-nuclear citizen’s group, said on Tuesday that the leaks of contaminated water that are hounding the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant had been known since early in the crisis, and have worsened only because the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) – the facility’s operator – acted too slowly. Jaczko said that the United States and Japanese officials knew leaks would occur when massive amounts of water were used to cool molten reactors at the Fukushima plant.
Jaczko mentioned that he was surprised at how long it took Japan and TEPCO to start tackling the problem. “It’s been known for a long time that this would be an issue,” he said at a news conference in Tokyo. “My biggest surprise is to some extent how it’s been allowed to deteriorate, a little bit, and how it’s almost become a surprise again that there are contamination problems, that there is leakage out into the sea.” When the Fukushima plant was in critical condition after the tsunami rendered three reactor cores of the plant melted, Jaczko said that Japanese and U.S. officials were already talking about how much water should be used for cooling. Jaczko said that the Japanese government was concerned that flooding those reactor vessels and buildings with water “would lead to greater leakage of ground water”, but the NRC said that the reactors needed to be kept cool to minimize the airborne contamination. Eventually, Jaczko said that the “focus was lost” on the need to keep addressing the radioactive water problem, and TEPCO delayed on trying to resolve the issue.
Japanese officials confirmed for first time in July that contaminated ground water had been leaking into the Pacific soon after the accident, contrary to the claims by TEPCO that the radiation levels were normal outside the plant. Leaders of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, in power during the crisis, also acknowledged last week that there was indeed a proposal to build a seawall to block contaminated water from leaking into the sea, but that had been put off for nearly two years as TEPCO resisted the plan for financial reasons. The public has become very concerned at the effect of almost 300 tons of radioactive groundwater leaking into the Pacific Ocean, while the current administration has recently released funding for the development of more advanced water treatment equipment and paying for a costly ice wall to surround the reactor and turbine buildings and prevent them from contaminating outside groundwater.
[via The Republic]