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Japan Orders Tepco to Build Underground Wall at Fukushima Plant

Japan Orders Tepco to Build Underground Wall at Fukushima Plant
Members of the media and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) employees, wearing protective suits and masks, walk towards the common spent fuel facility during a visit to the company's Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, on March 6, 2013. Photographer: Issei Kato/Pool via Bloomberg

The Japanese government ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to build an underground wall at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant to prevent groundwater from flowing into basements of reactor buildings.

The government plans to set up a task force with Tokyo Electric, construction companies and plant makers by the end of June to discuss the details, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Toshimitsu Motegi said today in Tokyo. He made the remarks at a meeting with Naomi Hirose, the utility’s president, which was open to reporters.

Tepco has struggled with handling of contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant after a quake and tsunami in March 2011 caused three meltdowns and radiation leaks. The plant site, 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of Tokyo, is running out of space to store radioactive water due to inflowing groundwater, raising concerns the operator will dump it into the ocean.

“Given the seriousness of the contaminated water and public anxiety about the issue, it is essential to have multiple measures,” Motegi said in the meeting. “That’s one of the biggest lessons from the Fukushima disaster.”

Tepco should expand its storage capacity for contaminated water to 800,000 cubic meters by March 2017 and add more tanks if necessary, as recommended in a report by the government’s advisory panel today, Motegi told Hirose.

The government has set up the panel to discuss measures to reduce groundwater seeping into the reactor buildings after the utility found radioactive water leaks in April. About 400 cubic meters a day of groundwater is flowing into the buildings, according to Tepco’s estimate.

Tepco plans to pump out groundwater through wells before it flows into the basements of the reactor buildings to reduce the inflow to 300 cubic meters a day, the government panel said in a statement today. The groundwater will be discharged into the ocean after confirming it’s safe, the trade and industry ministry said in a statement.

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