Fukushima watch: Regulator says Tepco must focus on trench water — The Wall Street Journal

” The head of Japan’s nuclear regulator said Tokyo Electric Power Co.9501.TO -2.31% needs to get its priorities straight when it comes to work to decommission the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and that it must place a greater emphasis on solving issues that carry bigger risks.

“The biggest risk is the trench water. Until that matter is addressed, it will be difficult to proceed with other decommissioning work,“ Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said on Wednesday at his weekly news conference. “It appears that they are getting off track,” he told reporters.

Tepco has been trying to remove some 11,000 metric tons of water that contains dangerous radioactive materials such as uranium and plutonium from a trench that runs from the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s No.2 reactor building.

The company planned to remove the water after plugging one of the trench’s ends, which connects to the underground floor of the reactor building, by freezing the water around the entrance by circulating coolant via underground pipes.

Tepco was hoping to plug the hole so that new contaminated water wouldn’t flow into the trench. The utility would then fill the trench with concrete once the existing water was pumped out. While the work started in April, the coolant didn’t end up freezing the water and Tepco resorted to dumping ice and dry ice near the end in July.

While Tepco has been working to resolve this issue, it has also been expending what Mr. Tanaka deemed to be considerable resources on less important activity, such as continually monitoring radiation throughout the site regardless of levels of contamination and covered soil.

“It would be the best if you can keep all contamination from spreading. But what if another tsunami hits the plant and the highly contaminated water in the trench is discharged while you are trying to do everything?” Mr. Tanaka asked reporters.

He also said another important matter to attend to is to cleanse the highly contaminated water stored in tanks at the site. But he noted that this work should come after the trench water issue is dealt with because ALPS, the new water processing system, has been working well.

“We’ll take his advice seriously and look into how to best address these issues,” a Tepco spokesman said in response to Mr. Tanaka’s comments. ”



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