Members of a Fukushima panel inspecting the construction of a barrier that is meant to stop radioactive water from leaking into the Pacific ocean. Photo: Kyodo via Reuters

7 August 2013

TOKYO (The New York Times) – The Japanese prime minister directed his government on Wednesday to step in to help stabilize the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, after continuing radiation leaks exposed the failure of the plant’s operator to contain the problem more than two years after a triple meltdown.

Calling recent revelations of new contamination flowing into the Pacific Ocean an “urgent issue,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the national government had to use its resources to help the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, bring the leaks under control. In a recognition of the magnitude of the problem, a government official said Wednesday that some 300 tons, or about 75,000 gallons, of contaminated groundwater is now believed to be flowing daily into the man-made harbor at the Fukushima plant.

Regulators said in the past week that a “chemical wall” built in June by the operator, also known as Tepco, had failed to contain the contaminated water, which appears now to be flowing over the top of the barrier and into the Pacific. This newest problem comes after a series of troubles at the plant earlier this year that included spills of highly toxic water and a partial power failure caused by a rat in a circuit board.

“This is not an issue we can let Tepco take complete responsibility of,” Mr. Abe told a group of Cabinet ministers gathered to discuss the plant. “We must deal with this at the national level.”

Though Mr. Abe did not specify what his government would do, local news reports quoted unidentified officials in the trade ministry, which has promoted the use of nuclear power, as saying that Tokyo would most likely help pay for a $400 million wall of ice to surround the damaged reactor buildings.

The plan calls for freezing the soil around the buildings to shut off the flow of contamination into nearby groundwater, and thus end the leaks into the sea. Doing this would require an ice wall nearly a mile in length that would reach almost 100 feet, or 30 meters, into the ground. Officials said that an ice wall of such a scale had never been attempted before, making it unlikely that Tepco could pull off the feat alone.

“There is no precedent in the world to create a water-shielding wall with frozen soil on such a large scale,” the government’s main spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, told a news conference. “To build that, I think the state has to step in to support its realization.”

Japanese Government to Help Stabilize Nuclear Plant After Leaks



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