Regulators order TEPCO to improve radioactive water management

Nuclear regulators on Friday ordered Tokyo Electric Power Co. to improve its management of a massive amount of radioactive water at its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex without hesitating to deploy workers from other power plants.

Summoning TEPCO President Naomi Hirose following recent leaks at the Fukushima plant, Katsuhiko Ikeda, the head of the NRA secretariat, criticized the utility for "rudimentary mistakes" that resulted in the trouble and said its field management ability was "significantly deteriorating."

"I want you to implement on-site management appropriately even if it requires bringing a workforce from TEPCO's other power generation plants," Ikeda told Hirose.

With concerns growing over the situation at the Fukushima plant, Ikeda also urged the utility to report whether it can ensure the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station in Niigata Prefecture, which the company is seeking to restart.

Hirose said he will "devote all the company's resources" to managing the toxic water problem. The company will also undergo necessary procedures toward resuming two idled reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, he told reporters.

Ikeda told reporters later that he expects TEPCO to submit a report on how it will deal with the issue in about a week.

Radioactive water is increasing daily at the Fukushima plant, hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, because groundwater is seeping into reactor buildings and mixing with water that is used to cool the three crippled reactors.

Such contaminated water is kept in about 1,000 tanks set up at the site, and TEPCO is struggling to prevent leaks from the storage tanks. The current typhoon season is adding to the difficulty because the utility also has to deal with rainwater that accumulates inside leak-protection barriers around the tanks.

On Thursday, the utility said about 430 liters of radioactive water leaked from one tank the previous day, and some of that water flowed into the Pacific Ocean.

The leak occurred because water spilled after workers tried to inject more water into the nearly full tank. The tank was not equipped with a water-level indicator and was set up on unlevel ground, which TEPCO was aware of.

Just before the incident, TEPCO also allowed 5 tons of tainted rainwater to overflow from another tank because a worker erroneously connected a hose to the tank.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, meanwhile, announced that it will send a team of experts on decontaminating areas affected by the nuclear crisis at the request of the Japanese government.

The mission, to take place between Oct. 14 and 21, is a follow-up to a previous mission conducted in October 2011.

The IAEA said that the 16-member team plans to submit a report on the last day of the mission summarizing its findings and advice to the Japanese government.