New readings showed radiation levels high enough to give a lethal dose in as little as four hours.
The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes said new radiation monitoring equipment has revealed the true extent of the problem.
But despite warnings from seismologists and despite the simulations, Japan’s largest nuclear operator had not taken appropriate preventative measures to beef up tsunami defences in front of Fukushima’s six reactors. And here was one of TEPCO’s top brass explaining to me with his poker face that if they’d acted on the warnings it would have spooked the locals living nearby. Using the sort of convoluted wordplay employed by the scheming Sir Humphrey Appleby, Junichi Matsumoto appeared to be conceding that TEPCO had sat on its hands. In other words, the Fukushima nuclear disaster might have been preventable. Perhaps it was a man-made cataclysm, and no act of nature.
DenialI have learned through my many dealings with TEPCO that this is a company rooted deep in denial. It is a firm that has apparently put public relations before disaster planning. It is a corporation that has seemingly learned little from the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.
Two and a half years on from the triple meltdowns at Fukushima, a depressingly familiar pattern has developed. This is a tale trapped in an endless loop of farce, its plots both improbable and alarming. Here is how it seems to play out.
In the first act we are confronted with outright denial. The Fukushima plant is stable, the reactors are under control. There is no problem. In the second act a problem is exposed in all its radioactive glory – it could be a nuclear water leak, or contaminated groundwater leeching into the Pacific, or a power failure to pools cooling thousands of toxic fuel rods, or mysterious steam oozing from a shattered reactor building (all have happened). In the final act, a line of sober-faced TEPCO officials fills the stage. They choreograph their bows, and the dialogue begins.
“We apologise again for causing anxiety among the public.”
TEPCO General Manager Masayuki Ono has apologised a lot lately. TEPCO’s trust rating among the Japanese public had already dropped through the floor, like the melted fuel in one of its doomed reactors. It wasn’t helped by TEPCO’s repeated denials that radioactive groundwater was seeping into the sea.
Those denials were eventually challenged by Japan’s atomic watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority. With unprecedented candour, the NRA’s chief, Shunichi Tanaka, told reporters he believed the Fukushima plant had been leaking contaminated water into the Pacific since the start of the crisis in 2011.
Confronted with this stunning slap in the face by the nuclear regulator, TEPCO revealed that it had known that at least 300 tonnes of radioactive groundwater was flowing from the plant into its harbour next door every day.
his toxic soup contained substances that sounded like they were straight out of a Superman comic - tritium, caesium-134, caesium-137, and strontium-90. Strontium has a half-life of about 29 years, and is known as a “bone-seeker” because it replaces calcium in bones, often causing cancer.
The French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety estimates that the Fukushima meltdowns caused the largest single nuclear contamination of the ocean in history. But TEPCO said there was nothing to worry about the contamination was being dispersed through the Pacific. It would have minimal impact. Few in Japan believed the company’s spin.