Abe's assurance over Fukushima radioactive water comes under question
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's assurance that the situation surrounding the radioactively contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is "under control" during Tokyo's final presentation for the 2020 Olympics have come under question, prompting plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to send an inquiry to the government.
Abe stated in his presentation at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, "Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo." He also said the effect of the water leak has been "completely blocked" within an area of 0.3 square kilometers in the waters from the plant.
"His remarks don't convey the facts accurately," said one observer in criticism of the prime minister's statement.
At a press conference on Sept. 9, TEPCO faced a barrage of questions from media representatives about data corroborating Abe's remarks. In response, a TEPCO official admitted that the utility has asked the government about its true intentions, betraying a difference in their perceptions of the situation at the crippled nuclear plant. At the same time, the official said, "We will strive to stabilize the situation at the earliest possible date."
In the plant's 0.3-square-kilometer bay surrounded by breakwaters are impermeable walls to prevent contaminated water from flowing out into the sea and silt fences to prevent the spread of contaminated water within the bay. Liquid glass has also been rendered to solidify the seawall along the plant's premises.
However, contaminated water has leaked into the bay, with 1,100 becquerels per liter of radioactive materials including strontium as well as 4,700 becquerels per liter of tritium detected in seawater inside the silt fences. While TEPCO explains that the concentration of radioactive materials outside the silt fences contain up to one-fifth of that inside those fences, the contaminated water inside the silt fences and outside the fences have been shifting by 50 percent each day. Furthermore, tritium penetrates through the silt fences because the material has a property similar to water. Although the levels of radioactive materials detected at the mouth of the bay and at a location three kilometers off the shore fall below measurable limits, experts point out that radioactive materials have "simply been diluted by large quantities of seawater."
Moreover, contaminated water keeps rising as 400 tons of groundwater permeates into the collapsed reactor buildings each day, while some 300 tons of highly contaminated water has leaked from an aboveground tank, part of which has likely leaked outside the bay by way of drain ditches directly leading to the sea. With a series of trouble having taken place as a result of insufficient measures taken by TEPCO, there remains the possibility of further risks arising hereafter.
"It is hard to tell what can be called as being 'under control,' but it is certain that you can't say the contaminated water has 'been completely blocked' in a technical sense," said a senior official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
September 10, 2013(Mainichi Japan)