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Minister urges TEPCO to ensure nuclear safety measures

By Jiang Xueqing in Tokyo | | Updated: 2024-02-22 09:18
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Japan's industry minister said on Wednesday a recent radioactive water leak at the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant earlier this month has caused anxiety in Japan and abroad and will hinder the completion of the decommissioning of the plant.

Ken Saito, minister of economy, trade and industry, summoned Tomoaki Kobayakawa, president of the Tokyo Electric Power Company, operator of the Fukushima plant, to his office on Wednesday, urging TEPCO to take the incident as a serious management issue and ensure thorough safety measures.

Furthermore, Saito requested an analysis to identify any common factors contributing to a series of troubles for the purpose of preventing recurrence. He also urged the utilization of digital technology to prevent human errors, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

On Feb 7, TEPCO informed the International Atomic Energy Agency that water containing radioactive materials was found to have leaked from a caesium absorption tower at the plant.

TEPCO calculated that the leakage totaled around 5.5 cubic meters of water containing an estimated 0.022 terabecquerel of radioactive substances, according to the IAEA.

The water was assessed to have leaked from a valve left open during cleaning work at the absorption tower.

On Oct 26 last year, TEPCO announced that two male workers in their 20s and 40s, who were exposed to nuclear-contaminated water while cleaning pipes at the Advanced Liquid Processing System at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, have been hospitalized for decontamination and observation.

The two workers, employees of a partner firm of TEPCO, were engaged in the cleaning process along with three other male workers. During the operation, a hose used to transfer nuclear-contaminated water to a tank went loose, leading to the splashing of approximately 100 milliliters of radioactive water, as reported by The Asahi Shimbun, one of the major daily newspapers in Japan.

In the process of handling the Fukushima nuclear-contaminated water, accidents have occurred repeatedly, fully exposing the chaotic and disorderly internal management of TEPCO, a spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Japan said on Feb 8.

The accidents also demonstrate the inadequate and ineffective supervision measures by the Japanese government and once again prove the lack of long-term reliability of the nuclear-contaminated water treatment equipment, highlighting the necessity for international supervision, he said.

Japan has so far dumped approximately 23,400 cubic meters of nuclear-contaminated water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea since August 2023 in three rounds. The fourth round is scheduled to commence in late February.

The spokesperson of the Chinese Embassy in Japan said the discharge of nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima into the sea concerns the health of all mankind, the global marine environment and international public interests.

"We once again earnestly urge Japan to take seriously the concerns of neighboring countries and the international community; engage in sincere consultations with relevant stakeholders; fully cooperate in establishing effective international monitoring arrangements with substantive participation from stakeholders; and handle nuclear-contaminated water in a scientific, safe and transparent manner," he said.

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