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2013年10月31日 (木)

福島原発汚染水 政府と東電はどう封じ込める

The Yomiuri Shimbun October 31, 2013
Govt, TEPCO must come up with plan to plug polluted water leaks
福島原発汚染水 政府と東電はどう封じ込める(10月30日付・読売社説)

The leakage of water contaminated with radioactive substances at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant must be contained without delay. The government and the utility must come up with viable measures to deal with this task.

During a meeting on Monday, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, called on TEPCO President Naomi Hirose to implement fundamental corrective steps, describing the current state of affairs as “extremely alarming.”

Contaminated water leaks continue at the crippled plant due to defects in the facility’s storage tanks and errors committed by workers. Though he is rather late in taking action, the head of the government’s nuclear watchdog had every reason to press TEPCO’s top executive to rectify the situation.

According to media reports, Hirose explained during the meeting the short-term measures TEPCO would take to deal with its containment operations. These included sending personnel to the troubled facility from all sections of the corporation.

He said it was essential to make progress in decontamination at the site and enable workers to carry out their tasks without wearing full face masks. He added it was also imperative that accommodation facilities be built near the work site to reduce the time needed for workers to arrive at the site and the trouble this would cause.

As things stand now, it is unclear when the leakage problem can be cleared up. This has aroused concerns about a decline in the morale of TEPCO employees and others involved in the containment work. It is essential to improve the working environment in an effort to ensure that no further errors are committed by workers engaged in that task.

At present, no adverse effect of the leaks has been detected in waters near the power plant. The density of radioactive substances in these waters is far below international safety standards for potable water. It is important to control the leakage of contaminated water so areas outside the crippled facility will not be adversely affected.

The contaminated water in the storage tanks continues to increase by a daily average of 400 tons. About 1,000 storage tanks have already been installed at the grounds of the power station. Eventually, there will be no space left to build new storage tanks.

Purifier on the blink

The major culprit behind the increase in contaminated water is underground water flowing into wrecked reactor buildings. The water becomes contaminated when it mixes with radioactive cooling water in the buildings. In addition, rainwater has been contaminated with pollutants on the surface of the ground.

The utility has been unable to obtain approval from local fishermen for a plan to discharge underground water into the sea before it finds its way into the reactor buildings.

It is also disturbing that a contaminated-water purifier undergoing tests has encountered a number of problems. If the apparatus operates properly, it could reduce the risk posed by the leakage of contaminated water. Experts have said the risk of pollution would be much lower if contaminated water is purified before it enters the sea.

The government appears to be taking the initiative in tackling the contaminated-water leak problem. In stepping up efforts to reduce the amount of contaminated water, the government may have to explain to local residents about pouring purified water into the sea.

A government committee tasked with the disposal of contaminated water is scheduled to compile a set of comprehensive measures to deal with the problem by the end of the year. Earlier, the panel solicited proposals from the public on how to tackle the problem. A total of 779 proposals have been submitted to the committee. The government should adopt any workable proposals submitted from the public and not hesitate to use money from the state coffers to deal with the problem.

The NRA must assume its share of responsibility. It is disconcerting to note that the regulatory body has neglected to conduct a review of the safety of TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture for more than a month, a procedure necessary for the facility to resume operations. The NRA cited the polluted water problem as a reason for its apparent procrastination. The regulatory authority should play an active role in dealing with the leakage. This is essential in resolving the dispute over the reactivation of nuclear reactors in this country.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Oct. 30, 2013)
(2013年10月30日01時25分  読売新聞)


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