Japan’s trade minister has visited the Fukushima nuclear plant after its latest and worst leak.
Last week, 300 ton of radiation-contaminated water escaped from a tank at the plant. The tanks were set up to hold contaminated water used to cool reactor cores at the plant. Most of the water is thought to have seeped into the ground, but some may have escaped into the sea through a rainwater gutter.
The minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, promised the government would take urgent action. However he laid the blame squarely at the feet of the plant’s operator, TEPCO.
“Concerning the issue of how to handle the contaminated water, we had been leaving everything to TEPCO and the way they have been handling the matter was on a piecemeal basis, by taking care of each problem as it emerged. But from here on the government will take charge,” Motegi declared.
TEPCO has said it will now invite foreign decommissioning experts to advise it on how to clean up its act.
The trade minister promised checks of the tanks would be doubled to four a day.
The government has also signalled it may dip into an emergency reserve fund to help pay for the clean-up.
Fishing off the coast has once again been banned because of the contamination. Local fisherman complained they had lost faith in TEPCO’s ability to protect the sea.
Fumio Suzuki, a 47-year-old fisherman, said: “The [plant’s] operators are reacting too late every time with everything they do. We say, ‘Don’t spill contaminated water’, and they spill contaminated water. They are always a step behind so that is why we can’t trust them.”
It is unclear what the longterm environmental impact will be on sea life. A recent test on 170 types of fish showed 40 percent were contaminated
The Fukushima plant suffered multiple meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.