Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - Page 6 News List

Nuclear experts pan TEPCO over toxic leaks at Fukushima

AFP, TOKYO

Foreign nuclear experts yesterday panned the operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, with one saying its lack of transparency over toxic water leaks showed “you don’t know what you’re doing.”

The blunt criticism comes after a litany of problems at the reactor site, which was swamped by a quake-sparked tsunami two years ago.

The disaster sent reactors into meltdown and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents in the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Earlier this week, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had leaked outside the plant, confirming long-held suspicions of ocean contamination from the shattered reactors.

“This action regarding the water contamination demonstrates a lack of conservative decision-making process,” US Nuclear Regulatory Commission former head Dale Klein told a panel in Tokyo.

“It also appears that you are not keeping the people of Japan informed. These actions indicate that you don’t know what you are doing ...you do not have a plan and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people,” Klein said.

Klein was invited to attend the TEPCO-sponsored nuclear reform monitoring panel composed of two foreign experts and four Japanese, including the company’s chairman.

The utility had previously reported rising levels of cancer-causing materials in groundwater samples from underneath the plant, but maintained it had contained toxic water from leaking beyond its borders.

However, the embattled company has now conceded it delayed the release of test results confirming the leaks as Japan’s nuclear watchdog heaped doubt on its claims.

TEPCO president Naomi Hirose told a news conference yesterday that the company delayed the announcement even though obvious signs of leaks were detected in May, because officials were waiting until they were certain there was a problem.

Hirose apologized for the delayed announcement and said he and a TEPCO vice president would take a 10 percent salary cut for one month over the matter.

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