Tokyo promises better Fukushima nuclear containment

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Tokyo promises better Fukushima nuclear containment

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The deterioration of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan continues to raise fresh fears. The latest bad news announced by the operating company TEPCO is about more radioactive water. This time it is groundwater, running down from surrounding mountains.

TEPCO has released video taken a few days ago underneath reactor one, which shows water streaming along pipes and walls, which are contaminated. An estimated 400 cubic metres per day has been mixing with water used in the refrigeration system.

Water has also been leaking into the buildings’ understructure after being in contact with the partly melted down reactors – the legacy of the 2011 tsunami. Fukushima has some 400,000 tonnes of water inadequately in storage – containing cesium, strontium and tritium.

To try to prevent the entry of groundwater, testing on a system is scheduled to begin this October around reactor four.

This centres on metal tubing which would be sunk 30 metres into the ground with sodium chloride pumped through at below 40 degrees Celsius, to try to freeze the soil around it.

Japan’s industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi said tests would take until March 2015. Then an ice wall could be built underground to insulate the plant from run-off water and prevent leakage into the Pacific Ocean.

This is to cost almost 360 million euros, the sum approved this week by Tokyo, just ahead of the decision by the International Olympic committee of the venue for the 2020 games, for which Tokyo applied.

Motegi said: “Up until now, we have mostly left matters in TEPCO’s hands, but going forward, where there is a sense of urgency, the country will take the lead and look to implement the necessary budget measures. We hope to speed up the work that needs to be done.”

Japan’s nuclear regulator criticised TEPCO anew, saying that measurement and management communication at Fukushima were inadequate. Two years after the accident the public has an impression that the disaster is still out of control and that there have been attempts to hide this from them.