National

Tepco tech chief disputes Abe's 'under control' assertion

by Reiji Yoshida

Staff Writer

A Tokyo Electric Power Co. executive created a stir Friday by stating that he doesn’t believe the radioactive water leaks at the Fukushima No. 1 plant are under control — contradicting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s bold assertions in Tokyo’s Olympics presentation in Buenos Aires.

During the Tokyo bid team’s appeal for the 2020 Games on Sept. 7, Abe assured the International Olympic Committee that “the situation is under control” and “the effects from the contaminated water have been perfectly blocked within the (artificial) bay” of the wrecked nuclear complex.

At a meeting Friday in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, however, Kazuhiko Yamashita, Tepco’s top technology executive, reportedly told Democratic Party of Japan lawmakers that he “does not believe (Tepco) is able to control” the situation.

Later in the day, Tepco released a press release claiming Yamashita was only talking about some unexpected leaks at some of the hundreds of water tanks and other troubles at the compound, and that only the seawater in the utility’s artificial bay had been affected.

“In that sense, we share the same understanding as that of the prime minister,” Tepco executive and spokesman Masayuki Ono said at Friday’s press conference at the utility’s headquarters.

By saying “the situation is under control,” Abe and Tepco meant to say that the densities of the radioactive contaminants in seawater outside that bay are far below their legal limits, Ono said.

In the meantime, Ono admitted that the water in the artificial bay is being constantly refreshed by the ocean, which presumably allows radioactive contaminants to be swept out to sea.

Some experts say the radiation densities are being kept low by dilution rather than any steps by Tepco to “control” the flow of contaminated leaks and groundwater into the sea.

Asked about this view, Ono argued that Tepco has made various efforts to control the situation, including measures to keep the melted fuel in the damaged reactors cool.

Despite the fact that emergency cooling measures are the sole cause of all the radioactive water leaving the plant, Ono gave Tepco’s “measures” credit for keeping the density of the radioactive elements entering the seawater low outside the bay.