17 Mars 2015
March 17, 2015
FUKUSHIMA -- The Fukushima Prefectural Government and the Resources and Energy Agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry led foreign government officials on a tour of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on March 16 as part of the U.N. World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai.
Seven people, including government officials from the United States, Brazil and two other countries took part in the tour. A Mainichi Shimbun reporter accompanied them as they observed scenes -- including work to decommission the nuclear reactors -- from inside a bus. The participants appeared to have a great interest in what was happening to the nuclear facility as they posed numerous questions to organizers of the tour, including an official of Tokyo Electric Power Plant (TEPCO), who served as their tour guides.
The tour was planned by officials who wanted participants to observe the progress being made in efforts to decommission the nuclear plant. After being briefed on how TEPCO has responded to the nuclear disaster, the participants headed to the crippled nuclear power station by bus. When entering the "difficult-to-return zone" in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Okuma, they intently gazed at the street, which showed no sign of life.
In about 30 minutes, the participants arrived at the entrance of the nuclear power plant, where they put on masks and radiation dosimeters. The bus then took them past tanks containing contaminated water to the No. 4 reactor at the plant.
The airborne radiation dose detected by equipment carried by a TEPCO official started rising gradually from 20 microsieverts per hour. When the group approached the No. 4 reactor, the dose rose to the day's high of 50 microsieverts per hour. The participants visited the No. 5 and 6 reactors, which had avoided hydrogen explosions, as well as a building housing equipment that removes radioactive substances from contaminated water. They also observed workers engaged in decommissioning the plant.
After the tour, the participants asked a number of questions about the cost of decommissioning the nuclear plant, the number of workers there and measures being taken to manage workers' radiation exposure.
A 33-year-old risk management consultant from France, who said he had joined the tour because he wanted to know how the Japanese government and TEPCO had been responding to the nuclear disaster, said he came to understand that problems were being resolved toward decommissioning the crippled nuclear power station. A 57-year-old Austrian government official, on the other hand, said he was having various thoughts about the nuclear plant, including whether there were sufficient funds to decommission it. He also said he was wondering why Japan was trying to reactivate idled nuclear reactors in the country even though people were able to live without nuclear reactors in operation.
Personal dosimeters showed that the participants were exposed to radiation ranging from zero microsieverts per hour to 10 microsieverts per hour.