Never a day seems to go by without some announcement of 'trouble' at Fukushima Daiichi. Tanks have been leaking, areas near the tanks are showing very high levels of radiation (in one place as high as 2,200 mSv/hour), a group of workers opened the wrong pipe and got irradiated, another worker hosed contaminated water up into the wrong tank and it overflowed, the ALPS decontamination plant came to a halt because someone had left a rubber sheet in the works, there was a brief power failure etc. etc. The other day it was reported that a contract worker had thrown confidential papers regarding compensation into a Tokyo street rubbish bin. The list goes on and on.
We know there is a shortage of workers (3,000 at the plant, 2,000 of them subcontractors). We know they work in very difficult conditions and demands on them increase daily. We know the measures are stop gap and temporary (quick to assemble bolted together water tanks rather than properly welded tanks, miles and miles of plastic tubing ... ). We know Tepco is over-stretched. It is after all, supposed to be running a power generation and supply company. No nuclear power plant has ever been decommissioned in Japan, let alone one the state Fukushima Daiichi is in.
And yet the mistakes seem to be so basic, caused it is said by lack of communication between the Tepco managers (the elite) and those on the frontline (mainly subcontractors). The president, Mr Hirose, has pledged to bring more people in from other parts of the company. In the meantime, confidence on the part of the public, the government, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and people here in Fukushima, especially the evacuees, ebbs away.
Yesterday Tepco announced that it had found a small amount of caesium in waters 1 km out to sea for the first time (although only 1.4 bq/litre; the iinternational limit is 10 bq/litre). That does challenge the Prime Minister's assertion to the International Olympic Committee that the sea is safe. The IAEA is to send a team of international experts next month to monitor radioactivity in the sea and publish the results in English. In the meantime, test fishing resumed towards the end of last month and the fish has been tested and seems to be selling well so there seems to be no cause for concern - at least for the time being.
The Japanese word for 'trouble' is to-ra-bu-ru. And it's even evolved into a verb: torabutte iru - 'there's a problem'. The English language evolves in mysterious ways!