Japan inconsistent in recording leaks at plant

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Japan inconsistent in recording leaks at plant

At least 23,805 tons of radioactive water has leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant since the nuclear accidents in March 2011, an analysis by the National Assembly showed.

Saenuri Party Representative Kim Ki-hyun asked the National Assembly Library’s Parliamentary Information Office to analyze the press releases posted on Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Web site and its data e-mailed to journalists in Japan.

Based on the report, Kim argued that the company tried to downscale the gravity of its contaminated water leakages. He said the company initially released data that showed a lesser amount of leakage, which was later corrected with a higher figure.

“The information was never made public to Korea,” Kim said. “We worry that the Tokyo Electric Power Company was trying to conceal or downplay crucial information.”

He also criticized Korea’s Nuclear Safety and Security Commission for failing to monitor the situation closely. Because the commission’s Web site only offers data starting Sept. 12 of this year, the public has no access to information about the situation in previous years, Kim said.

According to the analysis, at least 24 occasions of radioactive water leakage took place since March 11, 2011. At least 23,163 tons was leaked during six occasions in 2011, and another 132 tons was leaked in 2012. There were 15 instances of radioactive water leakage this year, in which an additional 510 tons was leaked.

According to the National Assembly, the Tokyo Electric Power Company announced on Oct. 2 that one worker discovered that contaminated water was dropping down from a tank inside the plant. The amount of leakage was described as the size of a pencil. The company, however, revised the figure in its Oct. 11 report on the nuclear facilities and concluded that a total of 17 tons of radioactive water was leaked.

The company also announced on Oct. 9 that a highly radioactive water leak occurred as a result of human error. The company said 7 tons of radioactive water was leaked, but its final report made on Oct. 18 stated that the leak was 11 tons.

The National Assembly report also pointed out the problems associated with Tokyo Electric Power Company’s method of disseminating information about the nuclear accidents. Rather than sending out a press release, the company distributed its information in e-mails to journalists.

According to the report, the company sent e-mails to journalists on April 5 that stated that radioactive materials were discovered in water found between the waterproof sheets inside one of the storage tanks and on the ground outside the tank. The next day, the company issued a news alert that stated that about 120 tons of water was leaked, but that there was no possibility the contamination reached the sea.

The information, however, was never stated in a press release and only shared with the media. The public apparently had no access to it.

On May 17, the company also discovered that water from reverse osmosis (RO) waste water tanks were flooded from two of the reactors and that 27 tons of contaminated water was leaked. The company sent e-mails to journalists saying that the radioactive materials found in the leak were below safety levels. The company later corrected the e-mails, stating that the leak was 27.5 tons and that there was no possibility of leakage into the ocean.

“Until now, Japan made announcements as if there should be no safety concerns about the leaks from the nuclear plants,” Kim said. “But since not all information is released, we need to monitor the situation more closely.”

BY KIM KYUNG-JIN [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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