Tepco stalling spurs NRA to up scrutiny

AFP-JIJI

The Nuclear Regulation Authority will beef up monitoring at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant, an NRA official said Tuesday, after Tokyo Electric Power Co. came under fire for its apparent delayed revelation that radioactive groundwater had reached the Pacific.

The revelation triggered alarm bells over the plant’s precarious state and the capability of Tepco to deal with a long list of problems two years after it was swamped by tsunami and suffered three reactor core meltdowns.

The NRA plans to pull together two dedicated teams to investigate water contamination and its impact on the ocean’s ecosystem, the official said.

“We still don’t know the root cause of the problems, as they are more complicated than initially thought,” the NRA official said.

A formal announcement on the new teams, expected to be comprised of experts from the regulator, Tepco and a government-back research institute, is expected Wednesday.

Last week, the utility stated for the first time that radioactive groundwater had “leaked” outside the plant, confirming long-held suspicions of ocean contamination from the shattered reactors.

The company had previously reported rising levels of cancer-causing materials in groundwater samples taken from underneath the plant itself, but maintained it had halted toxic water from flowing beyond its borders.