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2013年9月 5日 (木)

福島原発汚染水 政府の責任で着実に収束を

The Yomiuri Shimbun September 5, 2013
Govt entities face serious work cleaning up Fukushima nuclear mess
福島原発汚染水 政府の責任で着実に収束を(9月4日付・読売社説)

The government’s nuclear disaster headquarters has put together a set of fundamental plans for stopping contaminated water leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

TEPCO’s own response to the problem has been too late, as indicated by the fact that radiation-contaminated water leaks still continue at one of the storage tanks at the crippled facility. The government’s decision to directly combat the problem, though itself belated, is a proper course to take.

It will cost the government about ¥47 billion to tackle the problem. The government is set to appropriate ¥21 billion from a discretionary reserve fund in the current fiscal budget for the time being, hoping to quickly carry out the project to halt tainted water leaks from the tank in question. The government has no choice but to carry out the project at its own expense, given TEPCO’s dire financial circumstances.

A major facet of the basic plan is the creation of what can be called an underground dam at the nuclear facility. As circumstances stand now, about 400 tons of radiation-tainted water is generated every day, due to underground water flowing into wrecked reactor buildings at the nuclear compound. The project will seek to cool the soil around the reactor buildings to create frozen soil walls underground, thus stopping the flow of groundwater into these buildings.

Another part of the plan is pumping up underground water before it reaches the reactor buildings and then releasing the water into the sea after confirming its safety.

All these plans must be steadily carried out.

Another important task is to store contaminated water in tanks in a safer manner. To achieve this, it is indispensable to start operations of a purifier that is being developed by TEPCO. Purifying tainted water in the storage tanks means success in greatly reducing the risks involved in the storage of such water. It is also important to install more contaminated water disposal apparatuses at the facility, a task that is also part of the basic plans.

Other essential tasks are to implement such measures as increasing the strength of the storage tanks and conducting soil improvement work at the facility. Efforts to better deal with contaminated water must be redoubled.

Tasks should be divided

Making progress in carrying out the project requires all government bodies—and not only the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry—to join hands in the endeavor. For instance, the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry should play an active role in tackling the water and soil contamination problem. Meanwhile, large-scale civil engineering projects related to the fundamental plans should be proactively undertaken by the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry and other relevant government entities.

An essential task facing members of a ministerial meeting to be set up in connection with the basic plan is to clearly define what role each ministry and agency should play.

The latest contaminated water leak problem has stirred concern among local residents and others due to a lack of information about the problem. Radioactive substances have been detected only in a harbor adjacent to the nuclear power plant. No contamination has been confirmed in waters outside the harbor. Radiation from the tainted water leaks is largely beta radiation, which is easily defended against.

Through officials such as the foreign minister and the reconstruction minister, both members of the ministerial meeting, the government must swiftly release appropriate information to both the public and the international community.

Questions must be raised about the stance adopted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority in connection with the tainted water problem. The NRA has distanced itself from the government’s efforts in this respect, citing its status as an entity highly independent from the government.

The commission was unaware of what method TEPCO had used to inspect the storage tanks. The NRA did not realize the power utility’s inspection method was slipshod until the tainted water leaks problem had worsened to an urgent level. In developing a new purifier, TEPCO also demanded that overly strict standards be met regarding materials to be used in building the system. This has only caused delay in starting operations of the new purifying apparatus.

We hope the nuclear regulatory authorities will realize their crucial role is to ensure the safety of nuclear power generation. With this in mind, the NRA should do all it can to deal with the ongoing problem.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 4, 2013)
(2013年9月4日01時36分  読売新聞)


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