At last the government's stepped in. PM Abe has recognised the urgency of dealing with the issue of contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi and said he's no longer going to leave things up to Tepco. Not before time. It's a long running saga. In April and May 2011 there were two spillages in addition to the 10,000 tons Tepco dumped in the sea prompting an international incident. After that a cleaning and recycling system was developed which has been dealing with the water injected to cool the reactors. Then in May this year we heard about problems with underground water: 400 tons a day were pouring down the hill into the reactor buildings and is being pumped out and stored in an ever-increasing number of tanks onsite. In May, Tepco unveiled a plan to bypass the water before it got near the reactors and direct it into the sea but the fishing industry opposed the plan and it got shelved. All the while Tepco denied that any contaminated water had seeped into the sea. Then on 22 July, the day after the Upper House elections (I kid you not), Tepco said it was 'possible' that contaminated water had got into the sea.
Things went downhill from there: trenches on the seaside of reactors 1 and 2 were found to contain highly radioactive material dating back to the time of the accident; contaminated water had been flowing over the top of a newly built containment wall at high tide. And then the Natural Resources and Energy Agency recently estimated that not 400 tons but 1,000 tons of underground water had been flowing into the nuclear plant every day since May 2011. Of this 400 tons per day had indeed ended up in the bottom of the reactor buildings but 300 tons had seeped into the highly contaminated trenches and from there into the sea, and the remaining 300 tons had flowed uncontaminated into the sea.
To put this in perspective, we're talking about the shoreline at the plant. Beyond the plant is a seawall, a barrier between the harbour and the open sea. Obviously monitoring of the sea has been stepped up and the beaches in Iwaki to the south were declared safe. But fishing which was supposed to start in a small way in September has been postponed. These revelations have damaged the industry too much. The issue will also affect whether people return to the area, not to mention international relations.
So the Prime Minister is right to take charge. But why wait for next year's budget? There's money from the Recovery Budget that hasn't been spent and what about the money that was mis-spent on non-disaster projects and is supposed to be paid back? It's clear that a private company cannot sustain expenditure on this scale. The government's committed to paying for the 'frozen wall' to be built underground around all four reactors (1,000 rods stretching 1.4 km) and taxpayers will have to pay the electricity bill for this almighty fridge for the next 30 to 40 years - plus myriad other astronomical costs. And nuclear is cheap?
That's all for now