Expert: Tepco’s safety culture still insufficient — NHK World; Int’l expert doubts ice wall will solve Japanese nuclear plant leaks — GlobalPost

NHK World:  ” A panel of nuclear experts monitoring reforms at the Tokyo Electric Power Company says the utility’s nuclear safety culture has not yet reached the required level.

TEPCO regularly reports to the independent advisory panel the utility set up after the 2011 accident at its Fukushima Daiichi plant. The utility gives updates on reforms to safety measures at nuclear power plants.

In the latest report, submitted on Thursday, TEPCO officials acknowledge management problems led to troubles with systems used to purify contaminated water, and repeated water leaks.

They say the firm has failed to end the vicious cycle of relying on makeshift systems due to lack of time, which leads to fresh troubles.

They say they were unable to make full preparations for cleanup work while being aware of a lack of technological capabilities.

The chairman of the panel, former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein, says TEPCO’s safety culture has not reached the desired level in terms of preparing for the unexpected. He says the utility must make sure workers are fully aware that they are dealing with a special plant which caused an accident.

He recommends the utility learn from measures taken at overseas nuclear facilities, and make the most of external support in order to improve operations.

TEPCO executive Takafumi Anegawa says the firm hopes to seek knowhow from abroad to compensate for its lack of on-site operation capabilities. He pledges to swiftly improve operations. ”

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GlobalPost:  ” An international nuclear expert expressed skepticism Thursday over Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s plan to set up an ice wall to ultimately stop radioactive water from further increasing at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex.

“I’m not convinced that the freeze wall is the best option,” former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Dale Klein, who heads a supervisory panel tasked with overseeing the plant operator’s nuclear safety efforts, said in an interview with Kyodo News.

“What I’m concerned about is unintended consequences,” Klein said.

“Where does that water go and what are the consequences of that? I think they need more testing and more analysis,” he said.

Former British Atomic Energy Authority Chairwoman Barbara Judge, who was also present at the interview in Tokyo and is part of the panel, said there is a need to assess during summer whether the ice wall method would be effective.

The remarks by the two overseas experts came at a time when concerns over the plan are being raised by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority and engineering experts. Their opinions may cast a shadow on TEPCO’s plan to begin operating the ice wall by the end of next March.

“No one has built a freeze wall this long for this period of time. Typically, you build a freeze wall for a few months,” Klein said.

Faced with a string of problems including radioactive water leaks at the Fukushima plant, TEPCO is attempting to freeze 1.5 kilometers of soil around the basement areas of the Nos. 1 to 4 reactor buildings.

The ice wall is envisioned to block groundwater from seeping into the reactor buildings’ basement areas and mixing with highly toxic water used to cool the plant’s three crippled reactors.

“I am much in favor of the bypass system,” Klein said, referring to the groundwater bypass system in which TEPCO pumps groundwater at the Fukushima plant to direct it into the sea to reduce the amount of water seeping into the reactor buildings.

“The freeze wall is expensive,” he said, urging TEPCO and the government to look at the cost of building one and whether the plan is making the “best use of limited resources.”

“I would encourage them to get international advice a little bit more,” Klein said about TEPCO, in terms of its decontamination work and future plans to scrap the plant.

Klein also urged the company to work with and share information with relevant authorities in the United States and Britain given that those nations are experienced in water management and decontamination efforts at former military or weapons-related sites.

==Kyodo ”

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