The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has started the second review of the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to be able to update the international community on the issues and challenges that they are facing. The primary concern is the storage of the contaminated water at the plant and the removal of the fuel assemblies from the No. 4 reactor building.
The 19-man delegation is headed by Juan Carlos Lentijo, who is also the IAEA’s director for the nuclear fuel cycle and waste technology division. At a press conference on Tuesday, before meeting with the officials of utility operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) and the government, he said that the team will be assessing the situation down to the smallest details. They will go to the site today and look at the current decommissioning process until Friday and afterwards head to Tokyo to hold discussions with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, Japan’s nuclear watchdog, and other experts. They are expected to report its findings by December 4, through a press conference.
Their last review was in April of this year and the result showed them to be highly critical of the way TEPCO was handling the process. They called the timeframe “unrealistic” and asked them to come up with a comprehensive process of handling the issue of storage of the contaminated water. A few months later, TEPCO admitted that there was a leakage in one of the storage tanks and the 300 tonnes of irradiated water may have leaked into the Pacific Ocean. The government stepped in to manage the situation as it had already attracted international concern and this second evaluation from the IAEA will see if this has made a difference.
TEPCO has also started removing the fuel assemblies from the damaged building that houses the No. 4 reactor and so far, they have not reported any anomalies in the operation. This is the most complicated undertaking they have done since the 2011 nuclear accident and is the first step towards the decommissioning process which is expected to take up to 30-40 years.
[ via Reuters ]