At the request of the Japanese government, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is launching a new review into the decommissioning process of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant. The nuclear facility, which suffered multiple core meltdowns during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, has been suffering multiple setbacks with regards to cooling and storage in the past few weeks and IAEA was brought in at the central government’s behest to look into the current situation.
IAEA is the United Nations’ nuclear review body – although they remain independent of the global organization – and this upcoming review of the Fukushima decommissioning will be the third such probe of its kind. With a 12-man delegation, they will be on site at the nuclear facility from Wednesday to Friday to assess and analyze the current state of the reactors, measure radiation levels in the immediate environment and very specifically, look into the waste management and storage issues that have been hounding TEPCO for the past few weeks. They will also hold talks with the utility operator regarding the current situation in the facility. “After this week of discussions, I hope that we will have new information to give our assessment and to give our feedback to the government of Japan,” Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of the mission, said. The delegation is scheduled to pass on its report and recommendations by April 22.
The decommissioning process is tedious and critical work being undertaken by TEPCO, and is already rumored to take as long as 40 years to complete. With the difficulties and setbacks that they have been having recently regarding storage for the radioactive water being used to cool the reactors, the process is bound to drag on longer than expected. TEPCO has already had to admit and take responsibility for a number of lapses on their end regarding safety measures and crisis management. The leaks and the circuit breakdowns add a huge amount of pressure on the operator, and with this new probe coming, it is possible that a few more problems may be unearthed – but hopefully with a view towards improvement in the decommissioning process.