'Japanese government doesn't give enough money for cleanup' after Fukushima disaster - expert

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Radiation levels in seawater outside one of the crippled Fukushima reactors has spiked to the highest level in two years. That’s according to TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It said that radiation levels on Wednesday, the day six workers were exposed to highly radioactive water, jumped 13 times the previous day's reading. A TEPCO spokesman said that the sudden spike in radiation was caused by construction work near the No. 2 building.

This week’s significant spike in radiation levels is seen as the latest setback for TEPCO. It has repeatedly been slammed for its handling of the nuclear disaster after a massive quake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011, triggering three reactor meltdowns.

TEPCO, which is pouring hundreds of tons of water to keep reactors cool, has struggled to contain the build-up of radioactive water at the plant.

In the latest incident, six workers were exposed to radiation after a pipe connected to a contaminated water treatment system was mistakenly detached. As a result, at least 7 tons of contaminated water escaped the system.

Meanwhile, Japanese officials have said that there is no environmental threat to other countries as radiation will be diluted by the sea. Tokyo, despite lingering concerns over the long-term safety situation at Fukushima, was selected last month to host the 2020 Olympic Games.

The Voice of Russia spoke with Arnie Gundersen, Chief Engineer at Fairewinds Energy Education, on this issue.

Does everyone really understand the real troubles posed by Fukushima disaster? Is there anything else to discover?

This is a problem that doesn’t seem to go away. And there are 3-4 pieces to it. There is buildup of order in thousand tanks, each tank has a thousand cubic meters of water in it and there is a thousand of those tanks, some of which are leaking directly into the ground. That is problem number one. But problem number two is that the building basements are also leaking and the building basements have lots of radiation left over from the meltdown 2 years ago. So, water flowing in from the ground is in contact with the radiation and now all the buildings on the site are highly radioactive as well. So, Tokyo Electric solution is to build a wall of ice all the way around the entire reactor about 2 km long but the problem is they won’t have it done for at least 2 years. So, the problems we are experiencing now are going to get worse over the next 2 years before Tokyo Electric can begin to turn the corner.

Is the wall of ice the best solution in this case or is there something that would work faster and more effectively?

I had proposed an idea 2 years ago that would have been better. I had proposed instead of keeping the water from leaking into the Pacific, the right solution is to keep clean water from leaking into the building. It is like having a bathtub. Tokyo Electric choice is to build the sides of the bathtub higher to keep the water in the bathtub. My solution is to turn the tap off and prevent the water from filling the tub in the first place. I was told 2 years ago that Tokyo Electric couldn’t afford that. But the solution they are proposing is much more costly. That really gets to the root of the problem. Your question is right on the mark. Tokyo Electric is not an engineering front and they have been asked to do engineering when in fact they’ve been an operating company. And on top of that they don’t have enough money, the Japanese government isn’t giving them enough for an adequate cleanup. So, you have an inadequate firm underfunded from the Japanese government and until those 2 problems get solved we will have leaks and building failures in the future.

How much of a risk is this for the rest of the world and why haven’t members of the worldwide community really stepped in to offer help, to offer funding and consulting services to help liquidate the disaster?

The Japanese government hasn’t asked for help and I don’t know whether that pride or fear that they might find out how bad things really are. Just last week Prime Minister Abe asked for help. But I’ve been contacted by three Americans firms who’ve gone over and bagged to give them their technology and they’ve been rebuffed by the Japanese. So, I really don’t believe that the Japanese want to have an adequate solution here because they can’t afford it. And on the environmental effects of the Pacific, we are contaminating the Pacific Ocean. There was some caesium in the ocean from bomb testing, from mainly the US and Russian programs but also others, but Fukushima is putting in 10 times more caesium than there was before the accident happened. And that is going to work its way up to food chain. The organisms on the bottom of the ocean will become contaminated and then those who eat that will be contaminated and ultimately it will show up in the top fish, the salmon and the tuna.

SOURCE: Voice of Russia