The good news for the Japanese government is that the International Atomic Energy Agency believes that they have made a lot of progress since the last visit in April at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The bad news is that upon further assessment by the mission, the situation is still very complex and a lot of challenging steps still have to be taken in order to stabilize the plant and its surroundings.
The team leader of the 19-person mission, Juan Carlos Lentijo, delivered the interim report on Wednesday, praising the government and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), for what it has done so far to contain the situation. The team has been in Fukushima since last week in order to once again observe the decommissioning process at the plant which suffered a meltdown during the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011. They looked at what has been done in terms of managing the storage of the contaminated water that has been used to cool down the reactor cores. They also observed the ongoing removal of the fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, the only one of the reactors to not have a meltdown during the disaster but whose storage facility was heavily damaged.
The statement by the IAEA stated that TEPCO should look into other options in managing the decontamination efforts, which may include “resuming controlled discharges (into the sea) in compliance with authorized limits.” But if they will be going down this road, as early as now the operator should already look into preparing the safety and environmental impact assessments. Nuclear experts agree that discharging the water into the ocean, after it has been safely cleaned of most of its harmful contaminants, is probably their only option eventually when they run out of storage space at the plant. However this has been strongly opposed by local fishermen, environmental groups and neighboring countries. The whole decommissioning process at the plant is expected to last for 3 to 4 decades. The IAEA will be giving their final report of the whole situation by end of January 2014.
[ via AFP ]