TEPCO Misses Deadline To Process Radioactive Water At Fukushima Nuclear Plant
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), owner and operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, said Friday it would be unable to keep its promise of processing all the highly radioactive water still stored at the plant before the end of March, due to ongoing problems with faulty and untested equipment.
In a pledge to the nation and to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe when he visited the stricken plant in Fukushima Prefecture, 220 km northeast of Tokyo, in September 2013, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose vowed that the embattled utility would complete the filtration process of all the dangerously toxic water being held in temporary storage tanks by March, 2015.
“We took the promise with the prime minister very seriously but we cannot fulfill our commitment. The problem of toxic water is the biggest source of concern for the local residents and we are extremely sorry to be unable to keep our word,” Hirose said during a meeting with Takayuki Ueda, commissioner of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, earlier Friday.
Having reneged on his 1st pledge, Hirose stated that the water treating process would now be completed, “by the end of May at the latest.”
As it stands, at the stricken plant, the scene of the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in Y 1986 following the plant suffering multiple meltdowns after having its key cooling systems knocked out by an earthquake-triggered tsunami in March, 2011, 280, 000 tons of highly-radioactive water is in need of treating and being stored in tanks, with around 350 tons of toxic water being added daily, to keep the reactors cool.
The current delay in filtering out radioactive materials from the stored water will have a knock-on effect and will likely mean that the overall process of decommissioning the plant will now also be delayed, experts with knowledge of the matter said Friday, punctuated by the fact that decommissioning work was in fact suspend on Wednesday following the deaths of 2 workers Tuesday, who lost their lives in 2 separate incidents at TEPCO’ s facilities in Fukushima Prefecture.
The embattled utility, along with faulty and untested equipment being used to contain and treat the water, admitted that 300 tons of radioactive water leaked freely from its tanks in August 2013 and about 100 more tons in February 2014.
While both the government and the utility’s own ineptitude continues to hamper the decommissioning process of the plant, the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office Thursday decided to uphold their decision to not indict three former TEPCO executives over their mishandling of the Y 2011 disaster.
The prosecutors maintained there was insufficient evidence following a citizens’ panel in July, claiming that the 3 former executives, which include former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, should be indicted over their bungled handling of the disaster.
The citizen’s panel had determined that the former chairman along with 2 former executive vice presidents had failed in their duty to protect the plant, despite having knowledge of the plant’s vulnerability to critical damage from a potential tsunami, as TEPCO’s Fukushima plant sits just meters from the coast of the Pacific Ocean in a country that has the most seismic activity in the world.
Sources close to the TEPCO matter, said that the decision by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office could, theoretically, be overturned by a lottery-selected citizens panel, forcing an indictment by court-appointed lawyers if eight of the 11 panel members vote in favor. The sources noted that such prerogative power by a citizens panel has rarely been used, but does exist to ensure bureaucratic transgressions can be prosecuted.
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