IAEA starts review at Fukushima

Kyodo

A team of nuclear experts formed by the International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday started its activities in Japan to review the country’s ongoing efforts to scrap the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It is the first IAEA mission to Japan focusing on decommissioning. The 12-member team will also look into the recent radioactive water leaks and electricity supply disruptions at the plant — mishaps occurring more than two years after the devastating nuclear crisis started.

Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, said the recent troubles are among the topics to be discussed during the one-week mission.

“After this week of discussions, I hope that we will have enough information to give our assessment and to give our feedback to the government of Japan on the two issues,” he said prior to the start of the team’s activities.

The experts will also assess the general strategy for the decommissioning of the plant’s four crippled reactors, a process the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. expect to take at least 40 years.

During their stay, the experts will visit the Fukushima complex and release a preliminary report on April 22, according to government officials.

The review will be made in two steps, with the second step slated for several months later, Lentijo said.

Tepco has said it has kept the stricken reactors stable by injecting water continuously. But as a result, massive amounts of radioactive water continue to accumulate at the site and managing the polluted liquid remains a challenge.

Most recently, Tepco found a series of leaks of contaminated water from sunken reservoirs.

Before revelation of the water leaks, a power outage, believed to have been triggered by a rat that touched a makeshift switchboard, disabled the cooling system for the spent-fuel pools of reactors 1, 3 and 4. It took 29 hours to restore the system.