US advice to Japan on avoiding groundwater contamination ignored
Just 2 months after the tsunami caused a triple meltdown at the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the US strongly urged Japan to take immediate steps to avoid groundwater contamination. That advice was ignored.
The advice was given in a memo to Japanese government officials. It urged the building of a barrier wall to prevent the flow of groundwater into the plant. The operator of the plant, Tepco opposed the plan calling it infeasible. Tepco was worried that the news of such a costly project would rattle investors in the company and raise the specter of bankruptcy. The Japanese government sided with Tepco and the plan was shelved.
Now more than 2 years later, the Japanese government has pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to create an ice wall to stop the flow of water into the plant which then flows into the Pacific. The ice wall will take nearly 2 years to build while every day 300 tons of highly contaminated water flows into the Pacific.
This issue demonstrates the fundamental flaw in Japan’s approach from the very beginning of the crisis. That flaw is this leaving a financially distressed, for profit company in control of the clean up and decommissioning of the reactors. The Japanese government should have taken charge of the situation from the beginning. Tepco had neither the resources or the proper motivation to manage the situation. Time and time again Tepco has cut corners to save on costs, such as using poorly made storage tanks to contain the contaminated water. 5 of those tanks have already leaked and surely more will follow, since the tanks were not made for long term use.
We are witnessing the daily polluting of the Pacific all because of the concerns of one company about its financial well being. But ultimately the fault rests with the Japanese government in shirking its responsibility to take control and manage the situation. This ceased to be just Tepco’s problem the minute the accident occurred.