Experts at IAEA meet criticize Japan for ongoing problems at Fukushima

Kyodo, JIJI

The government Monday came under criticism from some nuclear experts at a briefing held on the sidelines of the U.N. nuclear watchdog’s annual assembly over its attempt to stem the leak of radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

At the meeting called by the government, a Slovenian expert said all Japan has been doing for a long period of time was storing contaminated water in tanks, questioning whether it has found a solution to the problem.

A French expert highlighted that the government sometimes did not immediately disclose information about leakage cases. The expert said Japan could have publicized information promptly and accurately through avenues such as Twitter.

Japanese officials said it takes time to identify locations of leaks and to block them. They also said that the government has considered releasing groundwater from mountains to the sea in order to reduce water flowing into reactor buildings, but has faced oppositions from fishermen concerned about radioactive contamination.

Japan has sought to enhance transparency in order to win the trust of the international community, the officials said.

The briefing was held on the fringe of the annual general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency that opened Monday in Vienna.

At the power plant crippled by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Fukushima Prefecture, about 400 tons of groundwater has been flowing into reactor buildings every day, creating a new source of pollution.

At the conference Ichita Yamamoto, Japan’s science and technology policy minister, tried to ease international concerns about continued leaks of radioactive water, assuring Tokyo’s full commitment to contain the tainted water crisis.

Yamamoto also pledged to redouble efforts to provide the international community with accurate information on the problem at the plant.

In his speech on the first day of the five-day annual gathering, Yamamoto said the Japanese government regards tackling the water crisis as its “most urgent task” and intends to spend ¥47 billion on necessary measures.

He also stressed Japanese water and food are safe to eat and drink thanks to stringent safety standards adopted after the nuclear accident. Effects of the water leaks are limited to a 0.3-sq. km area inside the Fukushima plant’s port, Yamamoto said in line with the government’s official view, pointing out radiation levels in seawater outside the port are lower than safety limits for drinking water set by the World Health Organization.

The minister called for the international community’s cooperation with Japan in sorting out the water problem and decommissioning tsunami-ravaged nuclear power reactors.

It is necessary to establish a global cooperation system that brings together technology and expertise from all over the world because the work to end the water crisis and the reactor decommissioning project needs to overcome unprecedented challenges, he said.

At the meeting, IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano expressed the organization’s readiness to extend assistance to Japan, saying the water leak problem is “a matter of high priority that needs to be addressed urgently.”

  • itoshima2012

    I wonder why it is only some experts that criticize the Japanese authorities, the whole situation is clearly totally out of hand/control and a mega disaster unfolding daily in front of our eyes…

  • yellowroz

    They need more hydrogeologists and fewer nuclear engineers. If 400 tons of groundwater a day is flowing *into* the destroyed reactors, it is also flowing *out*. At some point it will not be limited to the 0.3 km2.

    Cesium is just an indicator pollutant; plutonium, strontium 90 etc. etc. are flowing uncontrolled into the sea, and have been for 2 1/2 years.

    We know little about radionuclide effects on the marine food web – the most experience/data was from Sellafield in the UK, and monitoring and modeling technology has greatly improved since then. The Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries would be a good source.

    • Starviking

      The groundwater could be being pumped into tanks.

  • Starviking

    “They also said that the government has considered releasing groundwater from mountains to the sea in order to reduce water flowing into reactor buildings, but has faced oppositions from fishermen concerned about radioactive contamination.”

    Then the government has to be decisive. Divert the groundwater.

    • yellowroz

      Starviking, no, they can’t pump groundwater in to tanks; it would just be replaced by….more groundwater.

      The current tank farm capacity is overwhelmed just by the contaminated cooling water.

      If they could get the ALPS treatment system back up, they could treat the cooling water and discharge it. The fisheries industry may or may not have veto power over the discharge of treated cooling water. Consultant Lake Barrett is preparing people to understand that discharge of treated cooling water will be inevitable.

      The “groundwater bypass plan” – the subsurface ice wall – will indeed be essential. Planned for 2014-2015. I have hopes for it.

      • Starviking

        I am talking about diverting the groundwater from the mountains to the sea.

        It would be great to get ALPS up and running again.