Revelations of sloppy management at nuclear power stations
Sloppy management has been revealed at Tokyo Electric Power Companys (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima Daini (Fukushima Prefecture) and Kashiwazaki/Kariwa (Niigata Prefecture) Power Stations. Examples include tools, plastic sheets and other 'foreign objects' being thrown into the pressure suppression pool and waste being taken outside the premises to be burned.
TEPCO announced that objects had been abandoned and misplaced on 9th October 2003. Items including an iron pipe, which was used in scaffolding, were found in the suppression pool at Fukushima Daiichi Reactor No.2. After that, investigations were carried out at other nuclear power stations and 'foreign objects' were found at them all. Among the objects were an electric grinder, a wrench, dust masks, work shoes, plastic sheets, string, barbed wire, pieces of cloth, can lids and so on. All together well over a thousand items were collected. At Hamaoka and Shimane Power Stations similar 'foreign objects' were discovered.
In the case of an accident, if the pressure within the containment vessel increases, the suppression pool is used to draw off the steam from within the vessel, to cool it down and convert it into water again in order to reduce the pressure. At the same time, it also serves as one source of water for the Emergency Core Cooling System (ECCS). It is not clear how the foreign objects ended up in the pool, but it is suspected that some of the objects were thrown into the pool intentionally, not just by mistake. At any rate, if these objects had blocked the inlet for the ECCS water, or damaged the pump or the valve, it could have led to a major accident. This incident has irrefutably exposed the sloppy management of equipment in nuclear power stations.
Incredible though this incident may seem, even worse things were found at Kashiwazaki/Kariwa. Based on reports from a whistleblower, a local resident group carried out soil investigations at a location outside the power station, where waste which had been removed from the power plant had been burned. There they discovered radioactivity from cobalt 60.
The resident group made its findings public on 19th December. At first TEPCO denied the accusation saying, 'No waste material has been taken outside the controlled area'. The management principles applied to waste generated in this controlled area treats all such waste as radioactive waste. The principles covering Japans nuclear power plants in this regard have not changed, so such waste 'would not', TEPCO stressed, 'have been taken outside'.
However, on 6th February 2004, TEPCO made a 180 degree turn by admitting that waste was taken out to be burnt or buried. TEPCO does not admit to transporting waste, but reusable tools can be taken out and reused if the radioactivity is below the permitted level (the legal standard is 0.4 Bequerels/cm2 and at TEPCO the level of radioactivity for objects which can be taken outside is one tenth of this). The same applies for recyclable materials such as batteries etc. If the radioactivity is below the permitted limit, they can be taken to recycle traders outside. Thus, according to TEPCOs explanation, some of the objects taken outside to be recycled were thrown away.
Regarding the waste which was taken outside, TEPCO says, 'the material shouldn't be contaminated, so there is no need for a follow-up survey or recovery of the material'. But as it turns out, that which 'shouldn't be' in fact is and as more and more facts are brought to light, the anxiety and distrust of the local people grows
by Baku Nishio(CNIC)
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