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World

ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: 3500 euros pour réparer la centrale de Fukushima

by Dominique Bari

Death Still Hangs Over Fukushima

Translated Wednesday 6 April 2011, by Henry Crapo and reviewed by Henry Crapo

The company operating the nuclear power plant at Fukushima Dai-ichi, in Japan, announced on Saturday that they had discovered a fissure in the concrete casing of reactor number 2, which could be the origin of the leaking of radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean. [1]

According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which operates the Fukushima plant, radioactivity near the fissure measured 1000 milliSieverts per hour. "With the rise of the levels of radiation in the sea near the power plant, we are trying to determine the causes, and, in this context, this leak could be one possible source", emphasized Hidehiko Nishiyama, adjoint to the general director of the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Security Agency (NISA). "We are analyzing the samples taken on site near the leak and in the sea, and we will not be able to reply with confidence until these results have been studied," he added in a press conference.

Workers of Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), operator of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, tried using polymer glue to seal the fissure in a well in reactor number 2, from which highly radioactive water was escaping directly into the Pacific Ocean. They had injected cement the previous day, in vain. According to TEPCO, analyses of samples of sea water taken on 30 March, 40 km to the south of the plant, showed a level of radioactive iodine 131 at 79.4 becquerels per liter, the legal limit being 40 becquerels. The Agency for Nuclear Security nevertheless affirmed that this radioactive substance would become diluted in the ocean, and would not be a danger to health.

The operator of the power plant is still very far from being in control of the situation at the site. The fuel rods are still overheated, and high levels of radioactivity are being measured in the ocean. Radiation at levels 4000 times the legal upper limit have been detected in the vicinity of the plant.

The officers of TEPCO, whose management both before and after the crisis have been strongly criticized, added fuel to the fire when the bodies of two workers, missing since 11 March, were discovered. The company takes the position that the two men, aged 20 and 24, were most likely killed by the tsunami. Pressed with questions, spokesmen for the group were unable to explain why the bodies had not been discovered earlier, during inspections of the plant following the tsunami. As sole response, the group let it be known that they are seeking to hire "liquidators".

TEPCO is Looking For "Liquidators"

TEPCO is spreading pulverized resin over the radioactive dust in order to prevent it from being carried off by the wind.
A barge needed for storing contaminated sea water must be towed to Fukushima.

The group is endeavoring to recruit "liquidators", to whom if offers 3500€ per visit to those willing to enter those zones most exposed to radioactivity, in order to proceed with repairs.
"My employer offered me 200,000 yens (1750€) per day," declared an 30-year-old employee of a subcontractor for the Japanese weekly newspaper Weekly Post. "Normally, I would regard that as a dream job, but my wife broke down in tears and dissuaded me, so I refused."

It will take years, even decades, to clean up the site, which is 240 km north of Tokyo.

The reaction, in face of the catastrophe, of the company TEPCO has given rise to much criticism. Its errors and omissions, taken together with the discretion of the management hierarchy, have greatly diminished its credibility; stock in Asia’s largest energy industrial group has lost 80% of its value since the disaster on 11 March. While its general director, Masataka Shimizu, was hospitalized for dizziness and high blood pressure, he will probably have to pay compensation of up to a hundred billion dollars, and Tepco may need public assistance, according to some media.

The arrival, today in Japan, of two experts of the International Atomic Energy Commission (AIEA), with the mission directly to collect information about the catastrophe, may be able to shed some light on the activities of TEPCO. In the meanwhile, the group seems to have regained the confidence of the prime minister, Naoto Kan, himself criticized for his management of the tragedy: he is of the opinion that the company TEPCO should remain in the private sector, all the while recognizing that the state may come to their aid in case of urgent need. Nationalization of the company had been evoked after revelations concerning failures in management.

The Japanese Prime Minister Visits the Scene for the First Time

Three weeks after the nuclear accident set off by the magnitude-9 earthquake and the giant tsunami on 11 March, which led to 28,000 dead and missing, the Prime Minister Naoto Kan has come for the first time to the damaged region and to the evacuation zone of 20km around the power plant. Naoto Kan visited Rikuzentakata on Saturday, a city of 23,000 inhabitants, of which there remain only ruins sunken in mud.

He then penetrated in the zone of 20km around the power plant, from which 70,000 inhabitants have been evacuated, and stopped at a sports complex converted into a base camp for the military, firemen, and engineers who strive to cool the reactors.

[1Combining two closely related articles A and B, published in l’Humanité on 3-4 April.


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