Wednesday, July 28

Fukushima nuclear crisis deepens, China expresses ‘shock’


LEAKAGE: This file photo shows local government officials and nuclear experts inspecting a construction site to prevent the seepage of contamination water into the sea, at Tokyo Electric Power’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. — AFP photo

TOKYO: Japan’s nuclear crisis escalated to its worst level in two years yesterday, with its nuclear watchdog saying it feared more tanks were leaking contaminated water and China expressing its shock over the disaster.

Japan’s nuclear regulator also said it feared the disaster exceeded the ability of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, to cope “in some respects”.

A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said earlier yesterday the agency plans to upgrade the severity of the crisis from a level 1 “anomaly” to a level three “serious incident” on an international scale for radiological releases.

Such a move would be the most serious action taken since the plant was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

“Any way you look at it, this is deplorable,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a regular news conference yesterday. “The government will make every effort to halt the leak of contaminated water as soon as possible.”

The plant operator, also known as Tepco, said on Tuesday contaminated water with dangerously high levels of radiation is leaking from a storage tank.

The NRA said it was worried about leakage from other tanks of the same type, which were built hastily to store water washed over melted reactors at the station to keep them cool.

China said it was ‘shocked’ to hear that Fukushima was still leaking contaminated water two years after the disaster and urged Japan to provide information “in a timely, thorough and relevant way”.

“We hope that the Japanese side can earnestly take effective steps to put an end to the negative impact of the after-effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident,” China’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement faxed to Reuters in Beijing.

Water in the latest leak is so contaminated that a person standing close to it for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended limit for nuclear workers in a year. — Reuters