The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant's unit 3 reactor building. Photo: Getty Images / AFP

By Julian Ryall, Tokyo
26 August 2013

TOKYO (Telegraph) – Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister of trade and industry visited the plant on Monday to determine progress to date on decommissioning the three damaged reactors at the plant.

Speaking after being shown around the site, Mr Motegi said, “The urgency of the situation is very high. From here on, the government will take charge.”

One week ago, TECPO admitted that hundreds of tons of highly radioactive water had leaked from a steel tank at the plant and that as much as 300 tons of contaminated water has been escaping into the sea every day since the plant was devastated by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

The minister said poor maintenance by TEPCO was to blame for the ongoing problems at the site.

As well as leaks of water contaminated with radiation, work to bring the damaged reactors under control has been making painfully slow progress. Radiation levels in three of the reactor buildings are so high that it is impossible for workers to spend more than a couple of minutes inside at one time.

The true state of the reactor chambers remains unclear and there are suggestions that the tons of water that are being sprayed on the reactor vessels to keep them at a stable temperature has compromised the foundations of the structures.

Experts have also warned that the effort to gain control of the reactors – which is likely to take an estimated three decades – could be for naught if another major earthquake or tsunami strikes north-east Japan.

TEPCO has previously been reluctant to accept outside help as it battles to gain control of the situation and start the complicated process of decommissioning the reactors, but its failed efforts to date have triggered renewed criticism in public and the media of the handling of the crisis by both the company and the government.

On Monday, an editorial in the Yomiuri newspaper said, “The utility’s capability to cope with the crisis, however, is nearing its limits in terms of both financial and personnel resources. Under the circumstances, a wider range of assistance and cooperation from the government will certainly become more and more important to address the problem.” [more]

Japanese government to take over Fukushima nuclear reactor

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