Fukushima Plant: step one of the recovery plan has ended sucessfully, however new challenges in the Food Chain hits the Japanese authorities
Nuclear plant accident recovery plan: the cooling water now circulates and contaminated water is removed with success
Tokyo – 19.07.11 – Mister Goshi Hosono, Japanese Minister of State for Consumer Affairs and Food Safety, Minister of Power and Saving Promotion and Minister of Restoration and Prevention of Nuclear Accident said at a press conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, that the first step of the road map established after the crisis in handling the situation at the Fukushima plant has ended today with success. “We have reached our target to reduce the amount of radioactive exposure from the Fukushima plant”. “One of the major reasons to this was due to the fact that the cooling water injection system has started to move”. The next target, set in the road map will be to bring the radioactive material down to less than one millisievert per year, which is the legal amount of radioactivity according to the international standards.
An underground shield wall to ensure no contaminated water leaks underground
Hosono also said that the plan in the next step is also to start building by the fall this year an underground shield wall in order to stop the leaking of radioactive water to contaminate the soil: “Right now the water filtration problem has been solved, Therefore, there is no risks that the water will flow up the reactor, however both domestic and international society is pointing out that the reactor water might be leaking from underground, and in order to ensure that there will be no such situation as to a major leak form the underground flowing into the sea, although we cannot say it is a zero situation, as it is physically impossible to examine to that level, we have decided to shield the underground so that we can have 100% assurance that there is no risk of underground contamination. We are currently evaluating the dept of the wall, the material that will be used. By the fall this year, we would like to be able to assess the issue and start constructing the shield wall.”
Mister Zengo Aizawa, Executive Vice President of Tepco added at the same press conference that the step one of the road map being completed, that meant more precisely that they have achieved to circulate the cooling water and remove the contaminated water from the reactors. “As a result of taking these initiatives, we have been able to remove a great amount of radioactivity, the actual density of the radioactive material is now down to one over two millions”, he said. “As of today, by entering into step two of the road map, we would like to enable the evacuees to go back to their homes as soon as possible.”
“It will take years to come out with a final report”
Whether the earthquake was the cause of the reactor’s meltdown, Hosono said that so far, the two analysis conducted by Tepco and the national government reported that the major damage at the Fukushima plant was caused by the tsunami rather than the earthquake. However, he said, as the international community has also been pointing out the question, the Japanese government is conducting further investigation on the issue. Assessing the real cause of the accident, and decommissioning the reactors will take more than ten years of investigations. Hosono added that the Japanese authorities will make regular announcements of new discoveries during the investigations: “finding out the details of what occurred as to the internal system of the plant will require a large scale of years, to come out with a final analysis”. In Germany, the nuclear stress tests are conducted by 3 different parties. The third party is an independent evaluation party. But in Japan, the law requires two parties in the review of a plant’s safety issues: the power company and the government.
Contaminated Fukushima beef cattle: “The guidelines were not fully applied”
Hosono said, when it comes to the food contamination issue, the government of Japan has guidelines, “however the rule itself was not fully taken into account, the cause of the recent incident is obvious, the straw that fed the cattle was contaminated from the fields, and the fields were not meticulously examined”. This animal contamination raises the question whether the whole food chain might be contaminated. In Chernobyl the major victims of cancer were not exposed to the external radiation but were affected by internal radiation through the food chain. Although the government will reinforce the examination of radiation rate of the fields in Fukushima and although some food supplies have already been restricted to be distributed, the issue of the ocean fish contamination raises anew. Some scientists reported radioactivity in other parts of the Pacific Ocean, which suggests the contaminated fish do travel and do expand radioactivity through the water. The Fukushima nuclear plant accident is the first onshore nuclear accident ever. Other nuclear accidents that occurred until now were inland accident. The beef cattle contamination raises a new challenge for the Japanese government willingness of transparency of information and communication with the public.
As for the Japanese government’s plans regarding the future use of nuclear energy, Hosono said the guidelines in case of nuclear accidents will be reinforced and the early timing would be the next fiscal year: “Through the various testing the government will impose, if some new problems arise, then the Japanese will have to reconsider their reliance on nuclear energy and to fulfil the part of the power source, the Japanese people will have to rely on alternative renewable energy ”, Hosono said.
Nathalie & Kyoko