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TEPCO asks for international assistance for Fukushima cleanup, receives offer from Russia

Posted: August 26, 2013 |   Comments

( Last week, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced that it would seek help from outside of Japan to clean up the Fukushima nuclear disaster, prompting Russia to once again offer its assistance.

Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom, the state-owned Russian nuclear facility, says that in order for the cleanup to be successful, Japan will have to change its current approach and incorporate technologies developed outside of Japan.

Japan's decision to seek outside help comes after 29 months of trying to contain radiation from Fukushima's molten atomic cores and letting more than 100 times the annual norms of radioactive elements leak into the ocean.

After 300 metric tons of irradiated water were discovered to have recently leaked from the facility, Japan's nuclear regulator decided to label the incident "serious" and called TEPCO's ability to deal with the situation into question. Zengo Aizawa a vice president at TEPCO, made an international call for help on August 21 at a press briefing in the nation's capital.

"It was clear for a long time that TEPCO was not adequately coping with the situation," Asmolov said. "It looks like TEPCO management were the last to realize this," he said. "Japan has the technologies to do this, but they lacked a system to deal with this kind of situation."

TEPCO's method of dealing with the problem so far has been to pour water over the melted nuclear rods to cool them and prevent them from critically overheating, which has left more than 330,000 tons of irradiated water. Dealing with that vast quantity of water is one of the major challenges faced by TEPCO; some of the radiation gets filtered out, but the filters become contaminated and corroded, and much of the water leaks into the ground or into the sea.

Asmolov said that the idea of pumping water to cool the reactors was good for nothing other than as a "machine for generating radioactive water." He suggested the use of other methods, such as using special absorbents to clean the contaminated water and introducing air cooling.

Russia had previously sent Japan a 5 kilogram (11 pound) sample of an absorbent that could be used at Fukushima and formed working groups ready to help the country on health effect assessment, decontamination and fuel management, among other things that Japan never took advantage of. Hopefully, Russia will now be able to help out in this growing global disaster.

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