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Radiation Still Leaking At Jury-Rigged Reactor

April 16, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Emergency Radiology
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A power failure left the nuclear fuel storage pools without cooling water for more than a day. Tons of highly radioactive water escaped from storage tanks. Experts think radioactive water is continuously leaking into the ocean.

Yes, we’re talking about Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. But those alarming stories aren’t from two years ago, shortly after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocked the plant out of service and pushed it to the brink of a devastating nuclear accident.

Instead, the events took place over the past two months. Last week, investigators told Japan’s parliament that a new, supposedly tougher regulatory agency is merely rubber-stamping whatever actions plant owner Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) takes. According to the Associated Press, TEPCO is still limping along with makeshift equipment hastily assembled after the disaster. In fact, the AP report questions whether the plant is really under control.

Nine of the 10 Japanese investigators who issued a highly critical report last July testified before a parliamentary committee last week. That July report called the disaster “manmade” and blamed incompetent crisis management and a too-cozy relationship between TEPCO and regulators. The investigators apparently aren’t too thrilled with what’s happened since their report was released either. One, lawyer Shuya Nomura, said:

The public is extremely concerned, especially about the latest contaminated water leak. Many people wonder if it’s a good idea to leave the plant up to TEPCO and the regulators. Regulators should demonstrate they can properly carry out the decades-long decommissioning process.

Meanwhile, an International Atomic Energy Agency team is visiting Japan this week, at the request of the Japanese government, to investigate the situation at the plant. Press Trust of India says it’s the third such visit since the earthquake and tsunami.

TEPCO is obviously feeling the heat. Reactor-related news takes up virtually all of the home page of its Web site (at least the English-language version). A statement at the top says: “We will put forth our utmost efforts into the compensation payouts, decommissioning, decontamination and revitalization of Fukushima while achieving a stable power supply and thorough business streamlining.”

That should keep the company busy for quite a while.

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