Two and a half years after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant experienced its three reactor-core meltdowns, efforts to clean up what remains of the complex is turning into another kind of disaster.
The site now stores some 340 million liters of radioactive water, more than enough to fill Yankee Stadium to the brim. An additional 400 tons of toxic groundwater is flowing daily into the Pacific Ocean, and almost every week Tokyo Electric Power Co. acknowledges a new leak.
Tepco started the cleanup process more than two years ago and was subsequently given a government bailout as its debts soared. The job of dismantling the facility was supposed to give the company an opportunity to rebuild its credibility.
But many lawmakers and nuclear industry specialists say Tepco is perpetuating the kinds of mistakes that led to the March 2011 meltdowns: underestimating the plant’s vulnerabilities, ignoring warnings from outsiders and neglecting to draw up plans for things that might go wrong. Those failures, they say, have led to the massive buildup and spills of radioactive water.
“Tepco didn’t play enough of these what-if games,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who recently joined a Tepco advisory panel. “They didn’t have enough of that questioning attitude” about their plans.
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