FUKUSHIMA--Fukushima prefectural officials blasted Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s belated admission that radioactive water was leaking into the ocean from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, even though the utility knew in January that water from a contaminated well had a direct channel to the sea.
TEPCO publicly admitted July 22 for the first time since suspicions emerged in June that radioactive substances from the reactors had likely leaked into the ocean.
The admission came after the utility announced June 19 that it had detected increased levels of radioactive substances in monitoring wells on the ocean side of the hobbled plant--a discovery it had sat on since May 31. It also knew months earlier before the confirmation that the wells where the radioactivity was detected were fluctuating in sync with tide levels.
TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters blamed the delay on announcing its findings on insufficient in-house communication.
"Our civil engineering department had confirmed water level variations in monitoring wells as early as in January," an official of the Revitalization Headquarters told the news conference on July 22, referring to the fact that such variations indicated that groundwater was likely mixing with seawater. That means contaminated groundwater had access to the sea. "But that information was not shared by our department responsible for monitoring radioactive levels."
The Fukushima prefectural government July 22 summoned TEPCO representatives to its offices to lodge a protest.
"It is truly regrettable that the insufficient sharing of in-house information resulted in a delay in safety measures being taken," the director-general of the prefectural government's Living and Environment Department, Tetsuya Hasegawa, told Takeshi Takahashi, head of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant stabilization center, and other TEPCO representatives.
Hasegawa also called on TEPCO to take measures to prevent further leaks and to strengthen its monitoring operations.
"The people of Fukushima become more anxious every time they hear of more safety failures," he told the TEPCO representatives. "Please put that thought at the very center of your mind as you try to fix this situation."
Tetsu Nozaki, who heads the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, also voiced a renewed sense of distrust in the power company.
"Never have I felt so shocked since we first learned during the early phases of the nuclear disaster that radioactive water was leaking into the ocean," he said.
Nozaki said the fishermen's union had held discussions with TEPCO on measures to stop radioactive water from contaminating the ocean before the most recent admission.
"That premise is gone, and we now face a totally different situation," he said. "Before anything else, I want them to make every effort to stop the leaks as soon as possible."
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