The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, just reversed its statement that the water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is not contaminated. The utility company has detected low levels of radioactive particles in the groundwater flowing into the plant. The admittance is part of a growing list of errors that have taken place during the cleanup effort, and many are critical of Tepco’s ability to remedy the situation after it allowed the plant to reach catastrophic radiation levels in the first place.
On Tuesday, Tepco stated that they had made an error in their previous tests, and that water surrounding the plant contained cesium which entered as a result of the meltdown. They said that they had discovered 0.39 becquerel of radioactive cesium 137 per liter of water, a level below Japan’s safety limit at 10 10 becquerels per liter.
Tepco has also been having problems with controlling the flow of groundwater that has been leaking into the basements of the reactor buildings at a rate of 100,000 gallons each day. This threatens the systems that have been put into place to cool the reactors. To add insult to injury, once water comes into contact with the reactors, it becomes contaminated and must be stored in metal tanks. The tanks have already taken up all available room at the facility. Tepco hopes to pump out some of the water before reaching the buildings into the sea. This plan would require the approval of local fishermen, businesses, and residents who remain wary despite the company’s assurance that the ocean will not be affected.
Two years after the catastrophic accident, Tepco is still struggling to find ways to control the disaster and remediate its effects. Despite their reassurances, the public is becoming increasingly doubtful of their expertise. Perhaps this situation could be seen as a lesson for the utility infrastructure in the United States where it clearly evident from Japan that only one error could lead to years of cleanup.