TOKYO: Japan’s nuclear regulator expressed growing alarm yesterday at increased contamination beside the seafront of the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and urged the plant’s operators to take protective measures.
Fukushima’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), has acknowledged problems are mounting at the plant north of Tokyo, the site of the world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
On Tuesday, the company said radiation levels in groundwater had soared, suggesting highly toxic materials from the plant were getting closer to the Pacific more than two years after three meltdowns triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Shunichi Tanaka, head of the new Nuclear Regulation Authority, told reporters he believed contamination of the sea had been continuing since the March 2011 catastrophe.
“I think contamination of the sea is continuing to a greater or lesser extent,” Tanaka said. “It was contaminated at the time of the accident, but I think it has been continuing for the last two years. Coming up with countermeasures against all possible scenarios is a top priority.”
The NRA “strongly suspected” radiation was contaminating the Pacific, Kyodo news agency said in an earlier report from a weekly NRA commission meeting, citing Tanaka.
In the days after the tsunami, a plume of radiation from explosions fell over wide areas of the land and sea.
Toxic materials, such as caesium, were later found to have leaked through channels in the ground on the side of the station by the sea, prompting expressions of concern from South Korea and China.
Separately, the nuclear power plant chief who had earlier led the life-risking battle to stabilize the cripple Fukushima reactors died of esophageal cancer on Tuesday. Masao Yoshida, 58, died in a Tokyo hospital, TEPCO spokesman Yoshimi Hitosugi said. Officials said his illness was not related to radiation exposure.
The plant, which still runs on jury-rigged systems to cool the reactors, has been plagued by problems, including repeated leaks of contaminated water from storage tanks.