Fukushima Nuclear Fuel Leaking Into Groundwater, Tepco Says Barrier Too Expensive, Will Hurt Stock Price

Japan is reporting that Fukushima nuclear fuel has burned through the containment vessel and is sitting on the concrete foundation of the plant leaking into the groundwater. TEPCO says an underground barrier needed to stop the molten lava from spreading in groundwater will cost too much money and will hurt their stock price.

Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University says melted fuel from inside the Fukushima nuclear reactor has melted through the containment vessel and is lying on the concrete foundations, sinking into the ground below. Japanese government officials have echoed this statement and have called on TEPCO to build an underground concrete barrier beneath the reactor which would be the only way to stop the molten fuel that is now leaking into the groundwater.

TEPCO so far is refusing to do so because the cost of  the project will be over 100 billion yen. TEPCO is debating whether containing the radiation is worth more than its stock price resisting call to build the barrier because agreeing to the plan would make the company appear to have excess liabilities which would in turn cause their stock price to drop.

TEPCO further “claims” that since the groundwater only moves 5 to 10 centimeters a day they have up to a year before the molten nuclear fuel in the groundwater would hit the shore, so there is no need to rush to make a decision on the underground barrier.

Completely entombing the reactor inside of a concrete building, called the “Chernobyl option” because that is how Chernobyl was handled, appears to be the only way to contain the radiation leaking from the nuclear power plant, which Japan now admits has suffered 100% nuclear meltdowns in 3 reactors and has released an amount of radiation comparable to Chernobyl.

The barrier in question would be part of that final solution, yet TEPCO resists finally bringing the crisis to an end in the name of their stock price.


The Mainichi Daily News reports:

Preventing radiation contamination more important than TEPCO’s stock prices

Some people have suggested that I start to write about something other than nuclear power plants, but with the situation as it is, that’s not going to happen. The crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is still not over. Far from it, there are signs that it is getting worse. I can’t stand by and look at the political situation without focusing on this serious event.

One figure who has entered the public spotlight in the wake of the nuclear crisis is 61-year-old Hiroaki Koide, an assistant professor at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute and a controversialist in the anti-nuclear debate. A specialist in nuclear power, Koide has garnered attention as a persistent researcher who has sounded the alarm over the dangers of this form of energy without seeking fame.

In a TV Asahi program on June 16, Koide made the following comment:

“As far as I can tell from the announcements made by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the nuclear fuel that has melted down inside reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant has gone through the bottom of the containers, which are like pressure cookers, and is lying on the concrete foundations, sinking into the ground below. We have to install a barrier deep in the soil and build a subterranean dam as soon as possible to prevent groundwater contaminated with radioactive materials from leaking into the ocean.”

His comment captured public interest and when I asked a high-ranking government official about it, the official said that construction of an underground dam was indeed being prepared. But when I probed further, I found that the project was in limbo due to opposition from TEPCO.

Sumio Mabuchi, an aide to Prime Minister Naoto Kan who is dealing with nuclear power plant issues, holds the same concerns as those expressed by Koide and has sought an announcement on construction of an underground dam, but TEPCO has resisted such a move.

The reason is funding. It would cost about 100 billion yen to build such a dam, but there is no guarantee that the government would cover the amount. If an announcement were made and TEPCO were seen as incurring more liabilities, then its shares would fall once again, and the company might not be able to make it through its next general shareholders’ meeting.

In my possession, I have a copy of the guidelines that TEPCO presented to the government on how to handle press releases. The title of the document, dated June 13, is “Underground boundary’ — Regarding the press.” It is split into five categories on how to handle the announcement of construction of an underground boundary. In essence, it says, “We are considering the issue under the guidance of prime ministerial aide Mabuchi, but we don’t want to be seen as having excess liabilities, so we’re keeping the details confidential.”

Possibly the silliest response to envisaged questions from reporters is TEPCO’s suggestion for a reply to the question, “Why hasn’t construction been quickly started?” The response reads: “Underground water flows at a speed of about 5 to 10 centimeters a day, so we have more than a year before it reaches the shore.”

Initially an announcement on the underground barrier was due to be made to the press on June 14, but it was put off until after TEPCO’s general shareholders meeting on June 28.


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