December 13, 2014
The head of Japan’s nuclear watchdog said contaminated water stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant should be released into the ocean to ensure safe decommissioning of the reactors.
Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, made the comment Dec. 12 after visiting the facility to observe progress in dismantling the six reactors. The site was severely damaged in the tsunami generated by the 2011 earthquake.
“I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances),” Tanaka told reporters, indicating they pose a danger to decommissioning work. “We have to dispose of the water.”
With regard to expected protests by local fishermen over the discharge, Tanaka said, “We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the increase in tainted water).”
Tanaka has said previously that to proceed with decommissioning, tainted water stored on the site would need to be released into the sea so long as it had been decontaminated to accepted safety standards.
“While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima,” Tanaka said, adding that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.
The inspection tour was Tanaka’s second since he became NRA chief in September 2012. He last visited in April 2013.
During his visit, Tanaka observed work at a trench on the ocean side of the No. 2 reactor building, where highly contaminated water is being pumped out. He also inspected barriers set up around the storage tanks to prevent leaks of tainted water.
Tanaka praised the completion in November of work to remove all spent nuclear fuel from the No. 4 reactor building, as well as changes to work procedures that he said allows for the completion of the work at the No. 2 reactor trench.
Source: Asahi Shimbun