By Mari Yamaguchi
The new chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says the utility needs to stop dragging its feet on plans to dump massive amounts of treated but contaminated water into the sea and make more money if it’s ever going to succeed in cleaning up the mess left by meltdowns more than six years ago at the tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant.
Takashi Kawamura, an engineer-turned-business leader who previously headed Hitachi’s transformation into a global conglomerate, is in charge of reviving TEPCO and leading the cleanup at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant. […]
CLEANUP REQUIRES RELEASE OF TREATED CONTAMINATED WATER
Massive amounts of radiation-contaminated water that has been processed and stored in hundreds of tanks at the plant are hindering decommissioning work and pose a safety risk in case another massive quake or tsunami strikes. TEPCO needs to release the water – which contains radioactive tritium that is not removable but considered not harmful in small amounts – into the Pacific Ocean, Kawamura said. The method is favored by experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority as the only realistic option. Earlier, TEPCO had balked at calls by NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka for controlled release of the water, now exceeding 770,000 metric tons, into the sea, fearing a public backlash. “Technically, we fully support the chairman’s proposal,” he said, adding that there is still strong resistance from local residents, especially fishermen. “I think we should have acted sooner. … We should start moving faster.”
PROFITS NEEDED TO COVER CRUSHING COSTS
Kawamura says TEPCO must become more profitable to manage to cover the gargantuan costs of cleaning up Fukushima Dai-Ichi after it suffered multiple meltdowns due to the massive March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami. TEPCO’S longtime status as a regional monopoly undermined its profit-making incentive, hobbling its ability to cover most of the 21.5 trillion yen (about $190 billion) price tag for decommissioning the plant and compensating dislocated residents. “To reconstruct Fukushima, we must make more profit, and I know we should not be taking about just money, but I think that is important,” he said.