TEPCO must regain public trust to ensure Fukushima’s steady recovery — The Yomiuri Shimbun

” To ensure the steady recovery of Fukushima, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s revised business plan must not be allowed to end up as pie in the sky.

TEPCO has compiled a new business plan. The utility has strengthened its steps to improve profitability to raise funds for costs including decommissioning reactors and compensation related to the March 2011 accident at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. This is the second time the plan has been revised.

The total cost of cleaning up the nuclear accident has ballooned from ¥11 trillion to ¥21.5 trillion. TEPCO will shoulder ¥16 trillion of this amount over about 30 years. The ¥300 billion TEPCO spent in fiscal 2016 on compensation and reactor decommissioning costs will be increased to ¥500 billion annually.

TEPCO must boost its “earning power” to secure sufficient capital to meet those costs. Restarting reactors at TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture will be essential for this. Each reactor brought back online will raise TEPCO’s earnings by ¥40 billion to ¥90 billion per year.

TEPCO is working to gradually restart all seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant from fiscal 2019. However, as things stand, high hurdles remain in its way. This is because even if a reactor passes safety screenings conducted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, local government authorities also must agree to the reactors’ restart.

The recent revelation that TEPCO did not disclose data about the insufficient earthquake-resistance of the main quake-resistant building at the plant has further heightened local distrust of the utility. Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama is not budging from his cautious stance because he believes safety measures at the plant are insufficient. “At the moment, I can’t agree to the restart” of the reactors, Yoneyama said.

An expert panel of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry also had some stinging criticism for TEPCO, saying it “has not earned enough trust from the public.”

Transparency vital

On June 23, TEPCO will switch to a new leadership lineup when Hitachi, Ltd. Honorary Chairman Takashi Kawamura becomes TEPCO’s chairman. Kawamura will need to work hard to regain trust in TEPCO so restarting its reactors can become a reality.

Strengthening cooperation with other electric utilities and launching new operations, such as gas retailing, also will be effective in solidifying TEPCO’s revenue base. Another issue that needs to be addressed is the overseas development of its thermal power business, in which TEPCO is pursuing integration with Chubu Electric Power Co.

The new plan stipulates TEPCO will “prepare a basic framework for cooperation with other companies” by around fiscal 2020, keeping in mind the Higashidori nuclear plant TEPCO is constructing in Aomori Prefecture.

TEPCO is considering working with Tohoku Electric Power Co., which has a nuclear power plant in that region. If this tie-up comes to fruition, it will be useful for establishing a stable supply of electricity. TEPCO’s intentions on this issue are understandable.

Other utilities that could become partners with TEPCO during a realignment in the industry hold deep-rooted concerns that cooperating with TEPCO could result in the costs of dealing with the nuclear accident being shunted on to them. TEPCO must lay the groundwork to dispel such concerns.

TEPCO and the government will, as soon as this autumn, establish a forum at which they can listen to the opinions of other electric utilities on steps to reorganize nuclear power and electricity transmission businesses.

Profits will be distributed based on the capital contribution ratio in a joint venture. Other companies should not be forced to shoulder the costs of the Fukushima nuclear accident. Highly transparent rules such as these will need to be drawn up. ”

by The Yomiuri Shimbun

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Nuclear watchdog takes Tepco to task for delay in leakage report — The Asahi Shimbun; Tepco sorry for failing to disclose latest radioactive water leak — The Japan Times; NHK World and Arirang News videos

The Asahi Shimbun: ” The nation’s nuclear watchdog body slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Feb. 27 over its failure to disclose information on the leakage of radioactive rainwater into the sea from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Plant operator TEPCO disclosed many months later that a drainage ditch near the wrecked reactors showed high concentrations of radiation and rainwater had leaked into the sea outside the enclosed harbor.

“TEPCO must reflect seriously (on the delay). We are concerned that the company’s efforts to secure a safe environment will be unable to obtain trust (from the people),” said NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka during a meeting in Tokyo that TEPCO President Naomi Hirose attended.

Hirose apologized profusely, saying, “We are extremely sorry for adding to the anxieties of fishermen and local citizens.”

This latest setback prompted local fishermen to dig in their heels over plans by TEPCO to release treated water. On Feb. 27, the Soma-Futaba fishery cooperative association and the Iwaki fishery cooperative association agreed to put talks on hold with the utility with regard to its “subdrain plan,” a key measure to reduce contaminated water in the nuclear plant.

TEPCO plans to pump up contaminated groundwater that has accumulated in the plant compound and remove radioactive materials so it can release the water into the sea. The utility has been seeking approval from local fishermen of the plan.

TEPCO became aware more than a year ago that the concentration of radioactive materials in the water flowing in the drainage ditch was high. The utility explained the situation to an NRA working group meeting held in January 2014.

[In February 2014,] the NRA instructed TEPCO to take countermeasures by the end of March 2015. At that time, however, the cause of the high concentration was unclear.

In April 2014, TEPCO started taking regular measurements. It suspected that the contaminated water was draining from slopes near reactor buildings. The utility covered the slopes and cleaned the drainage ditch. However, the concentration level did not decline. It reported the failure to determine the cause to the NRA in December.

Meanwhile, TEPCO continued to conceal details, including the fact that the concentration became high whenever it rained. It was only on Feb. 24 this year that it provided a detailed report to the NRA.

TEPCO explained accumulated rainwater on the roof of a service entrance for large equipment that connects to the No. 2 reactor building was the cause of the high concentration.

The compound of the nuclear plant is contaminated with radioactive materials due to the March 2011 accident there. That explains the presence of contaminated rainwater that accumulates in drainage ditches and elsewhere on the site. However, TEPCO had decided long ago there was no need to monitor rainwater for radioactive materials.

Water that flows in drainage ditches around tanks storing contaminated water was able to drain directly into the harbor, which has been sealed off from the open sea. Alarm devices were installed there, but TEPCO did not take special measures for the drainage ditch where the highest concentration of radioactive materials that emit beta rays was about 1,500 becquerels per liter when it rained.

Even on days when it was not raining, the concentration level was about 100 becquerels.

In drawing up the subdrain plan, TEPCO explained to fishermen it would reduce the concentration level of contaminated water to less than three becquerels before releasing it into the sea.

In 2013, contaminated water leaked from faulty tanks one after another. At that time, concentration levels were more than 10,000 times higher than the latest incidence of leaks. Because of that, a TEPCO official said, “We put too low a priority on the situation.”

Yoichi Miyazawa, minister of economy, trade and industry, accused TEPCO of dealing inappropriately with the situation.

“TEPCO should have paid more attention to the issue,” he said.

An NRA official handling the matter said, “We should have pushed TEPCO much more strongly to tackle the issue.” ”

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The Japan Times: ” Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted Thursday that its latest problem with radioactive water has shattered the trust it was building in Fukushima, especially among fishermen, and that the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant might be delayed.

“To make progress with the decommissioning effort and solve the tainted-water issue, the trust of the people in Fukushima is the most important thing. We’ve been working with that in mind, but unfortunately, we have damaged that trust this time,” said Naohiro Masuda, president of Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co., the internal unit in charge of scrapping the meltdown-hit plant.

“Due to the damaged trust, all of the schedules for the decommissioning tasks could be delayed, but we’d like to rebuild trust as soon as possible,” so Tepco can improve the plant’s condition faster, said Masuda, who peppered the news conference with repeated apologies.

One task expected to be affected by the surge in radiation detected in the water draining into the sea, is the pumping up of slightly tainted groundwater from wells around the reactor buildings. Because about 300 tons of clean groundwater seep into the reactor buildings each day before mingling with the tainted cooling water, Tepco is hoping to use the pumping maneuver to reduce the amount of groundwater and treat it so it can be dumped into the sea. The utility, however, needs the fishermen’s approval to dump it — a task the latest problem seems to have endangered.

This is not to be confused with the so-called groundwater bypass, which involves intercepting clean groundwater before it arrives at the plant and pumping it into the ocean. This operation is already underway.

Tepco also plans to drop more sandbags of zeolite, an adsorbent, in the drainage system to reduce the level of contamination by the end of March.

The utility said the source of the contamination is the roof of the No. 2 reactor building, which was damaged by an explosion during the crisis and remains heavily contaminated. Since runoff from the roof flows into the drainage system, radiation levels soar when it rains, data shows.

The roof has pools of water containing 29,400 becquerels of cesium per liter and 52,000 becquerels of other beta ray-emitting substances, such as toxic strontium-90, which causes bone cancer.

Tepco also has detected some 1,050 becquerels of cesium and 1,500 becquerels of beta ray-emitting materials per liter of water in an outlet leading to the sea.

Masuda said Tepco had no intention of hiding the information and did not think it was as urgent as reporting on its other decommissioning tasks, such as managing the hundreds of water storage tanks and removing tainted water from the underground trenches connected to the reactor buildings.

He vowed that Tepco will make efforts to keenly discern what information Fukushima people are interested in and swiftly make it available.

On Tuesday, the beleaguered utility said it knew that the abnormally toxic rainwater was leaking from the drainage ditch into the seas since last spring. It said the lack of visible impact in seawater samples taken about 1 km from the drainage outlet gave it reason to believe it was not necessary to disclose the information. ”

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NHK World: “Nuclear Watch: Fukushima investigates R2 leakage + New leaking in R4 + Fisherman angry”

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Asia Heartbeat, Arirang News: “Tokyo under fire for alleged cover-up of radioactive water” – watch video

Tepco public trust remains low as Japan shuffles nuclear watchdog — Channel NewsAsia

” The Japanese government announced it will replace two of its five officials on the Nuclear Regulation Authority, while the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is still grappling with low public trust.

TOKYO: Japan’s government has announced it will replace two of its five members on the Nuclear Regulation Authority which determines if a nuclear plant is ready for a restart.

Speculation is rising that the government is removing the seismic expert responsible for actually beefing up the requirements for nuclear plants.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is eager to spread the message that the Kashiwazaki Kariwa (KK), one of the world’s largest nuclear plants, is ready to be restarted after having been offline since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear plant disaster.

Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee deputy chair Lady Barbara Judge, who was the former chair of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, supports an energy mix that includes nuclear power even in Japan where the risk of a massive earthquake is high.

In Japan, many continue to oppose the restart of nuclear power plants. There are lawsuits taking place all over Japan not only against nuclear power plants but also uranium-related facilities. In May, a local court ruled for the first time against the restart of Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.

“In a lawsuit to stop the Oi nuclear plant, the historic ruling was based on the fact that the risk cannot be controlled by humans” said Tamotsu Sugenami, secretariat of the Takagi Fund for Citizen Science.

“Immediately, those who support nuclear energy began a campaign stating that zero risk is an old way of thinking. We cannot tolerate this.”

Aside from the technical safety concerns, public trust in TEPCO also remains low.

“They (TEPCO) put little films on their websites on what’s going on,” said Lady Judge.

“They’re trying to explain to the public what they’re doing inside of walls of power plants which is new. And that’s more important than anything in terms of regaining public trust.”

TEPCO is aware of its reputation problem but there is also the issue of compensation.

Co-author of the book “It’s necessary to dissolve TEPCO for the revival of the Japanese economy” Hideaki Takemura claims the government has bankrolled TEPCO with the banks pumping in some 2 trillion yen to salvage the company.

He said: “There has been no compensation from (TEPCO’s) own pocket. It’s using the government money to compensate the victims and deal with the accident. There is no company as irresponsible as that.”

There are clearly many questions in Japan’s ongoing nuclear debate but there is no question that the Abe government is as keen as ever to get the country’s nuclear power plants back online. ”

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