Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced Thursday, August 22 that bad was getting worse. The two-year-old disaster at Fukushima Daiichi has apparently raised the stakes as storage tanks recently leaked highly radioactive water. TEPCO remains incapable of resolving this.
TEPCO revealed about five days ago that the storage tanks have been leaking about 300 tons per day of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean every day, and may have been doing so since the crisis began. It continues to do so. Worse, about 300 tons of "highly" contaminated water escaped one holding area on Thursday. No one is sure how it happened, and no one is sure where it went, although a TEPCO spokesman said that it was "not believed" that the highly contaminated water went into the Pacific Ocean.
Fukushima Nuclear Plant March 16, 2011
The Japanese government took an 80 percent interest in TEPCO for the billions it loaned the company to clean up the mess. Nonetheless, it has insisted that the company be responsible for managing the cleanup. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said after the most recent revelation of a surprise release of 300 tons of "highly" contaminated water to an unknown destination, plus a long-term ongoing leak of 300 tons per day of contaminated water into the Pacific, that he was "no longer sure" TEPCO could manage without government assistance. There is some question as to when or why he ever was sure.
A prior government (Japan changes them approximately every nine months to a year) shut down all the rest of the nuclear reactors in the country as they came down for annual maintenance. Mr. Abe's government has been trying to get those reactors that were kept in non-running standby restarted. Sentiment has been against the restart, but the government was committed to it. The Prime Minister also expressed fears that this newest escalation of the original crisis would reinvigorate opposition to the restarts. It may be the one thing he has been completely right about.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said it would upgrade the severity of the crisis from a Level 1 "anomaly" to a Level 3 "serious incident" on an international scale for radiological releases. In response, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued the following statement:
"The IAEA is aware of media reports that Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) intends to rate leaks of radioactive water at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station at level 3 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).
"Japanese authorities continue to provide the Agency with information on the situation at the plant, and Agency experts are following the issue closely.
"The IAEA views this matter seriously and remains ready to provide assistance on request."
China has expressed "shock" over the discovery of months'-long leakage into the Pacific, and South Korea has demanded an explanation. Japan, for its part, appears to remain as incapable of managing a crisis as it was March 11, 2011, the day the tsunami came. In more than two years, the results of clean-up efforts at the plant are essentially zero.
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