According to experts who investigated the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the ongoing decommissioning process, the recently formed Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is being very lax with its oversight role in Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) post-disaster processes. This was particularly evidenced in the cooling failures that happened last month and recently last Friday, as well as TEPCO’s reactions and haphazard solutions to the cooling breakdowns.
Last month, it was found out that a rat had caused a short-circuit in the control board that managed the cooling systems for the radioactive residue water being used to decommission the nuclear reactors. This was followed last week by a similar cooling failure, and hours later TEPCO reported that the radioactive water was leaking out of its underwater storage tanks. These kinds of situations, the expert investigators say, show that the NRA is merely approving what decommissioning processes TEPCO is forwarding to the regulatory board without being very strict about the safety and the efficiency of the steps provided. “The public is extremely concerned, especially about the latest contaminated water leak. Many people worry if it’s a good idea to leave the plant up to TEPCO and the regulators,” said Shuya Nomura, a lawyer who served on the 10-member investigation panel commissioned by parliament last year. “Regulators should demonstrate they can properly carry out the decades-long decommissioning process.” Nuclear engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka, also an investigator, echoed Nomura’s statements about what he calls “routine approval” by the NRA. “They make a risk assessment, submit their plans to the government and they’re approved,” he said. “It’s the same old routine.” The investigators testified to this effect on Monday at a parliamentary nuclear committee for the first time since their findings were made public in July.
At the moment TEPCO is moving tons of radioactive water and storing them in underground storage tanks. There is a huge possibility that on or more of the tanks might have ruptured and is causing a steady stream of radioactive water to flow into the ocean, something that TEPCO denies but is evidenced in the high radioactive levels found in fish caught in the ocean near the power plant. While TEPCO had admitted to be remiss in discovering the leak – admission of fault is something they have had to do for a number of times now – they maintain that there is no other storage available to move the highly radioactive water to. NRA commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa affirmed on Monday that the water leak does pose the most immediate threat to the plant’s decommissioning process. He allowed that there may have been design flaws in the tanks, but he also similarly pointed out that the NRA will have to allow TEPCO to use the underground tanks for now.
[via The Republic]
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