JAPAN | Nuclear crisis minister wants underground barrier built quickly

Posted on July 12, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI | 12 July 2011

Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of the ongoing nuclear crisis, suggested July 11 that the government should push ahead with the construction of an underground barrier to block the flow of highly contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant as soon as possible.

Construction of such a barrier will cost more than 100 billion yen, according to some estimates. Hosono suggested that the government should help the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), with the project.

“Can a private company such as TEPCO handle this itself? I think the government should move into action, even if that means going a step ahead,” Hosono said.

Contaminated water has leaked from reactor and turbine buildings at the crippled nuclear plant. To stop this water from spreading through underground water and flowing into the sea, TEPCO plans to construct underground walls extending to a depth of 30 meters. Under its roadmap for bringing the nuclear crisis under control, which was revised in June, consideration of the best way to block the flow of contaminated water, as well as selection of a solution and construction, had been deemed “mid-term issues” after Step 2 of the roadmap that began in July and continues for three to six months.

“Construction of a barrier is an important process. We finished considering plans at an early stage of Step 2, and have started considering whether we can quickly begin construction,” Hosono said.

In this June 30, 2011 photo released on July 5, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co., sliding concrete slabs, seen above orange floats, are all set in the upper part of the sluice screen for Unit 2 reactor at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, in TEPCO's effort to decrease the leak of radiation contaminated water to the ocean. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

In this June 30, 2011 photo released on July 5, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co., sliding concrete slabs, seen above orange floats, are all set in the upper part of the sluice screen for Unit 2 reactor at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan, in TEPCO’s effort to decrease the leak of radiation contaminated water to the ocean. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

The minister’s comments, made at a meeting of the House of Representatives’ special committee on restoration following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, came in response to an inquiry from Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker Masayoshi Yoshino.

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