Fukushima Report Delayed as Tepco Gets New Chance to Explain

Fukushima Dai-ichi Nnuclear Power Plant
A building covering the Unit 1 reactor, left, is removed by a crane at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan on Nov. 12, 2014. Photographer: Shizuo Kambayashi/AFP Photo/Pool/Getty Images
The reactor building of Unit 3 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan. Source: Tokyo Electric Power Co. via Bloomberg
The reactor building of Unit 3 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (Tepco) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power station in Fukushima, Japan. Source: Tokyo Electric Power Co. via Bloomberg

The International Atomic Energy Agency delayed a report about meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to give Japanese officials another chance to explain radiation leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

The IAEA’s report about mid- to long-term plans to decommission the stricken reactors will be published in “mid-May,” agency spokesman Serge Gas said in an e-mailed reply to questions. The report had initially been scheduled for release by the end of March on the plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

“The Japanese government invited IAEA experts for a follow-up visit focused on contaminated rainwater issues and public communications,” Gas wrote in an e-mail from Vienna. “Tepco has no obligation to report to the IAEA but it still shares information with the agency regularly.”

The March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, which followed devastation caused by an earthquake and tsunami, forced 160,000 people to flee radioactive contamination and led to the shutdown of all of Japan’s nuclear plants.

IAEA monitors made an unscheduled return trip to Japan last month to follow-up on a spike in radiation levels caused by contaminated water leaking into the Pacific. While Tepco had known about the leaks for months, they didn’t discuss them with agency monitors during scheduled Feb. 9-17 consultations. Tepco subsequently decided to revise its communications policies and disclose more radiation data.

Japan’s government “wished to provide the IAEA with further explanations” including “Tepco’s efforts to improve communication,” Gas said.

Tepco didn’t respond outside of business hours to telephone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

In their preliminary report issued Feb. 17, the IAEA said that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi remained “very complex” and that containing contaminated water would continue to challenge Japanese authorities. Clearing out melted-down fuel from the three stricken reactors “poses a huge long-term challenge,” the agency said.

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