” WASHINGTON–Japan urgently needs an effective system that reuses radiation-contaminated water to cool down the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, said Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In an interview with The Asahi Shimbun, the nuclear expert said failure to handle the contaminated water problem at the site will damage Japan’s credibility.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
Question: As an outside expert, how do you view the serious problem of contaminated water leaks at the Fukushima nuclear power plant?
Jaczko: There is a long-term challenge in Japan with the clean-up from the Fukushima nuclear accident, which is going to take decades to resolve, and this is just one of the first incidents to show that it needs continuous focus and attention.
What I saw was somewhat surprising: the lack of monitoring of the tanks. That seems to be something that is more straightforward and easier to do–to ensure that there are not spills, or when there are spills, they are identified readily and quickly addressed and remediated.
But it did not appear that they had any type of instrumentation, monitoring, for those tanks; it was done as “walk-arounds” and identified by workers. They demonstrate a weakness in the safety system, in the oversight and the management of the project, and I think what is needed is corrections for those elements.
Q: Critics say that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant’s operator, has already lost control of the situation. What do you think?
A: It is unfortunate that TEPCO has not done more to address the situation. It has continued to raise concerns about their ability to do that, but it is also not an easy task to replace TEPCO because there are a number of workers who are involved in this effort. You cannot simply replace all those workers.
Fundamentally, this issue comes down more to management and safety focus than anything else.
What is really needed is an effective, rigorous system of accountability and management at the site. And ultimately, that has to come from the bulk of the workers and the people who are there every day.
But there needs to be continued government oversight. The regulator should continue to play a strong role in ensuring that the activities that go on at the site are safe, that they are consistent with the requirements.
There should be experts within the regulator who understand hydrogeology and the groundwater issues.
Whenever you are designing, siting and licensing nuclear power plants, you have to prepare for spills and other ways that the groundwater can be contaminated.
So, again, if the regulator does not have those experts, it would be important to hire them so that it could continue to provide effective oversight of TEPCO’s activities. … ”