Abe at Fukushima site

20 September 2013

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe visited the Fukushima Daiichi site yesterday, personally encouraging workers' efforts in the clean-up and decommissioning project. He urged Tepco to forget about restarting two operable reactors there.

Abe said his visit was called for after his comments in Buenos Aires at the final stage of Tokyo's successful bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. Addressing concerns over water management issues at the plant, he had pointed out that any leakage from the site affects only the small fenced-off area within the port breakwaters, and that water beyond this was actually fit for public bathing. This came as a shock to many observers that had relied on mainstream media coverage lacking these facts due to a failure by industry and regulators to make them clear.

The prime minister visited the water storage area where up to 300 cubic metres of contaminated water is thought to have leaked in August. This had limited nearby effects and the faulty tank is nearly dismantled. Managers have also increased the number of patrols to check on the tanks, which hold some 270,000 cubic metres of water awaiting second-stage treatment at the incoming ALPS processing facility. Abe toured that plant and spoke to workers in the site control room.

Abe visits Fukushima Daiichi, September 2013 460x318
Abe addresses the site staff (Image: Kantei.go.jp)

"I want to thank you all for your hard work," Abe told the Fukushima Daiichi staff, "This is an extremely tough job, one in which you are working toward decommissioning. The future of Japan rests on your shoulders. The government as well will come to the fore and thoroughly fulfil this mission together with all of you."

As part of this government initiative the first meetings were held this week of an interministerial council. This is intended to gather information from all departments on the status of the damaged plant, its clean-up and the clean-up of the wider area affected by the release of radioactivity two years ago. One major priority is clearer international communication, inspired by the media storm surrounding the leak and its rating on the INES scale (Level 3, a 'serious incident').

During his visit, Abe took the opportunity to press managers of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to bring about a situation where all potential leakages of stored water are prevented, according to a BBC report. He said this must be the top priority, but also urged them to decide against trying to restart the two undamaged reactors at the plant.

Reactors have stayed in operation at other plants affected by serious accidents, at both Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, but Japanese public opinion appears to completely preclude any nuclear operation recommencing at Fukushima Daiichi. Tepco has previously said it would make up its mind on the future of units 5 and 6 at the end of this year. A decision to decommission would require a funded plan, but the Japanese government considers it would allow Tepco to increase its focus on the primary task of clean-up.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News