Tepco Must Improve Monitoring of Fukushima Leaks, Adviser Says

  • `Slightly tainted' water leaked into Pacific last weak
  • Drainage system overflowed eight times since January

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company behind the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo, needs a better monitoring system to alert the public when tainted water leaks from the site into the ocean, as happened recently when rain soaked the region, an independent adviser to the company said.

Tokyo Electric “knew heavy rains were coming, they should have taken as much precautions as possible,” Dale Klein, the adviser and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said by e-mail. “Tepco needs to work hard to regain public trust and confidence.”

The recent rains and continuing leaks of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean highlight the ongoing challenges facing Tokyo Electric more than four years after the nuclear disaster. The incidents also raise questions about the ongoing management of the disaster site, the cost to clean up the plant and the extent to which the surrounding environment is still under threat.  

Water overflowed from a drainage system into the ocean at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant on three separate occasions last week due to heavy rain and a typhoon, according to company spokeswoman Yukako Handa. How much water reached the ocean is unknown since the nation’s largest utility, also known as Tepco, doesn’t keep track, she said.

$8 Billion Effort

Since January, water has overflowed from the same drain system into the ocean on eight occasions, Handa said. Tepco estimates that efforts to control water at the site and stabilize the facility will cost about 1 trillion yen ($8.3 billion) in the 10-year period to fiscal 2024, she said.

The recent overflow shows that the final cost may fluctuate, according to Hiroki Shibata, a credit analyst at Standard & Poor’s Rating Services.

“It is difficult for Tepco to estimate the possible decommissioning costs this time,” Shibata said by e-mail. The company faces “persistent pressure on operating cash flow from the continued burden of compensation, cleanup, and decommissioning costs.”

Tepco is reinforcing the drainage system that collects surface water from various parts of the facility with a new covered channel. Work on the new configuration, which began in May, is expected to be completed by March. A similar procedure to cover different drains was completed last year.

The contaminated water, which Tepco categorizes as “slightly tainted,” caused only a temporary spike in the radioactivity of the nearby ocean, according to a Sept. 12 statement from the company.