Workers at leaking water tanks at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Photo: Japan Pool / AFP / Getty Images

October 6, 2013 (Al Jazeera) – Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Sunday that Japan is open to receiving overseas help to contain widening disaster at the crippled nuclear plant in Fukushima, where radioactive water leaks and other mishaps are now reported almost daily.

"We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem," Abe said in his English speech to open the conference on energy and environment at an international science forum in Kyoto in western Japan.

"My country needs your knowledge and expertise," he said.

Despite Abe's reassurances to the International Olympic Committee last month that the leaks were "under control," many Japanese believe he was glossing over problems at the plant.

Abe did not say whether he still thinks the leaks are under control, or give any specifics about foreign participation.

His comments come just days after the plant's operator acknowledged that highly contaminated water spilled from a storage tank as workers tried to fill it to the top.

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant says at least 110 gallons spilled when workers overfilled a storage tank without a gauge that could have warned them of the danger.

The amount is tiny compared to the untold thousands of tons of radioactive water that have leaked, much of it into the Pacific Ocean, since a massive earthquake and tsunami wrecked the plant and sent it into meltdown in 2011. But the error is one of many the operator has committed as it struggles to manage a seemingly endless, tainted flow. […]

Katsuhiko Ikeda, administrative head of the agency, ordered TEPCO President Naomi Hirose on Friday to ensure better on-site management and prevent human error, and submit improvement plans in a report.

"It is extremely regrettable that contaminated water leaked because of human error," Ikeda said. "We must say on-site management is extremely poor."

The new leak is sure to add to public concern and criticism of TEPCO and the government for their handling of the nuclear crisis. In August, the utility reported a 300-metric-ton leak (about 80,000 gallons -- roughly equal to the amount of water used by 200 American families each day) from another storage tank, one of a string of leaks in recent months.

That came after the utility and the government acknowledged that contaminated groundwater was seeping into ocean at a rate of 80,000 gallons per day for some time. […]

Experts have faulted TEPCO for sloppiness in its handling not only of the water management but also in other daily operations. A list of mishaps just over the past few weeks:

  • On Oct. 2, some 4 tons of contaminated rainwater leaked when workers pumped it into a wrong tank that was also nearly full, resulting in most of it seeping into the ground.
  • On Sept. 27, a water-treatment machine failed hours after resuming a test-run following months-long repairs, clogged up by a piece of rubber lining that got mistakenly left inside the unit. The rubber fragment has since been removed, with the unit back in operation. The unit stalled again Friday after an alarm went off. The cause is still being investigated.
  • On Sept. 19, a fire-fighting water pipe was damaged during debris removal operations, causing an 80 gallon water leak. [more]

Japan asks for world's help on Fukushima leaks


  1. GRLCowan said...

    Japan's government continues to get a $500-million-per-month natural gas tax revenue windfall through forbidding reactor restarts and therefore forcing utilities to run natural gas-fired power stations. The leaks it is now apologizing for, and thus drawing attention to, contain a tiny fraction of the radioactivity released as radon by one of those gas-fired power stations in a single day.  


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