Published: 10:14, February 22, 2024 | Updated: 10:17, February 22, 2024
Operator of Fukushima plant urged to ensure nuclear safety
By Xinhua

A pedestrian walks past a sign showing the logo of Japanese electric company Tokyo Electric Power Company, commonly referred to as TEPCO, the operator of the crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo on Aug 21, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)

TOKYO - Japan's industry minister on Wednesday urged the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to take thorough measures to ensure safety following a series of radioactive water leak incidents at the plant.

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Ken Saito told the president of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Tomoaki Kobayakawa that he wanted "management to take active steps to prevent a recurrence and ensure safety", after tons of water containing radioactive materials leaked from the disaster-stricken complex earlier this month.

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Saito said that the incident has "caused anxiety in Japan and abroad and will hinder the completion of the decommissioning of the plant", calling on the TEPCO to investigate any possible factors that led to human error and to invest in technology that eliminates the need for manual operation.

Human error was deemed as the cause of the incident, as 10 out of the 16 valves of the device that should have been closed were open

Kobayakawa offered an apology, saying that from a safety viewpoint, the problems should not have happened and he takes them very seriously.

According to the TEPCO, the leak occurred on Feb 7 from an outlet connected to a device to purify nuclear-contaminated water that has been accumulating at the complex. Human error was deemed as the cause of the incident, as 10 out of the 16 valves of the device that should have been closed were open.

In October last year, another incident occurred at the crippled nuclear plant in which five workers were directly exposed to liquid waste containing radioactive materials.

READ MORE: 5.5 tons of radioactive water leaked from Fukushima plant

The minister urged the TEPCO to conduct an analysis to determine whether the incidents had anything in common.

Hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and an ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima nuclear plant suffered core meltdowns that released radiation, resulting in a level-7 nuclear accident, the highest on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.

The plant has been generating a massive amount of water tainted with radioactive substances from cooling down the nuclear fuel in the reactor buildings, which are now being stored in tanks at the nuclear plant.

In August 2023, Japan started to discharge the Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, despite repeated objections by governments and communities, environmental groups, non-governmental organizations, and anti-nuclear movements in Japan and the Pacific region.