It took a while – and multiple incidents of radioactive leaks and power shortages – but Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, has finally admitted that it needs help from international organizations to clean-up the radiation caused by the nuclear disaster at the nuclear facility. For 18 months, TEPCO has shown the Japanese public a façade of being in control and that the decommissioning of the molten-down cores of the nuclear plant was going well. It took a 300-ton radioactive water leak – the latest in a series of leakages – for the embattled utility company to come out and say that it needed overseas help.
“Many other countries outside of Japan have experienced decommissioning reactors, so we hope we can consult them more and utilize their experience,” Zengo Aizawa, TEPCO’s vice president, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “In that sense, we need support, not only from the Japanese government but from the international community to do this job,” Aizawa added. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) rated the latest leak an “incident 3” on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, measuring nuclear incidents from 1 to 7. “The current situation is at the point where more surveillance won’t be enough to keep the accidents from happening,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA, said. The United Nation’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said that it is “taking this matter seriously and remains ready to provide assistance on request.”
TEPCO has been soundly criticized in public for having delayed in measuring the levels of radioactive elements that have flowed out of the station, as well as in publishing its data. Recently, the company had made admissions that radioactive groundwater was indeed flowing out into the Pacific Ocean where it once said that this was not the case. Data has also been released in the past few days that radiation levels in Fukushima Bay are now at its highest since being measured regularly.
Japan has traditionally been averse to foreign entities helping out, especially with the situation at Fukushima. The clean-up from the disaster caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami have been done majorly by clear-up contracts won by local companies. Outside experts and international organizations have tended to be relegated to the sidelines.