No solutions in sight for containment
While the plant continues to spew radioactivity, Japan’s largest
electric power company will be pumping water into the damaged reactors
and venting radioactive steam for a year or more. Tepco has built a
low-level waste storage facility on the site. But it has no plans to
move the waste elsewhere.
More bad news came from Tepco last Thursday [May 27th]. A new leak in a
storage container had dumped an additional 60 tons of radioactive water
into the environment.
It’s clear that no credible solutions are in sight to contain the
deteriorating reactors. No concrete plans are laid out for how to deal
with the growing nuclear waste, either.
Look no further than a recent controversy over the radiation exposure
limit for schoolchildren in Japan. The government set off an uproar in
April when it set a radiation exposure limit of 20 millisieverts per
year, the same dosage the International Commission on Radiation
Protection recommends for nuclear plant workers.
Under pressure, the Japanese government announced last week that it will
pay schools near the Fukushima nuclear plant to remove radioactive
topsoil; it re-set the target radiation exposure for schoolchildren at
one-twentieth the previous limit.
NHK had reported that before this new policy was announced, one school
in Fukushima had jumped the gun and scraped the surface of the
radioactive soil on its playground. The school’s quick action and
independent thinking seemed laudable. But there was a hitch. They had no
place to put the contaminated soil. No farmers could use it and no
neighbors wanted it in their backyard. The school was told to keep the
heap of radioactive soil in the middle of the schoolyard — for now.
The Japanese may be better prepared for earthquakes than any other
country. But this is scant consolation in today’s post-earthquake and
tsunami problem — the absence of a plan by the combined leadership of
government and industry for the future, especially when it comes to
dealing with nuclear energy.
It’s only been a week, but I’m starved for information. This is the big worry.
Or, more accurately put, I worry about the tendency for “self-restraint”
among Japanese bureaucrats, government officials, politicians, industry
leaders and even some in the academia here to keep disclosure of
information at a minimum. Early in the crisis, for instance, the
Japanese government had detailed information on radiation levels in
towns near the Fukushima nuclear plant. Government officials only
released the data via the Internet. The names of town were masked –
reportedly to prevent mass flights of panicked people, causing
“unnecessary” chaos or confusion in the society.
Similarly, in my humble opinion, Japanese consumers are as guilty as their so-called leaders.