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Experts: Japan 'Incapable' of Solo Decommissioning Effort

"It is clear that this very large undertaking requires an international effort."

- Common Dreams staff

members of International Expert Group (IEG) confer with a Tokyo Electric Power Co. official, center, as they inspect the decommissioning progress near the Unit 1 building at the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture. (Photo: The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning) Japan is "incapable" of safely decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant says a panel of experts who are calling for an international effort for the dangerous process, the Associated Press reported Sunday.

Unlike a number of other nations including the U.S., Japan has never undergone a decommissioning process and currently has no experts at the regulatory level even devoted to decommissioning, said Nuclear Regulation Authority spokesman Juntaro Yamada.

The AP story follows a growing call from nuclear watchdog groups and experts, including Harvey Wasserman and veteran U.S. nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen, for a "global takeover" of the decommissioning process, saying: "Neither Tokyo Electric nor the government of Japan can go this alone. There is no excuse for deploying anything less than a coordinated team of the planet’s best scientists and engineers."

Echoing that demand, nuclear engineering professor Akira Tokuhiro, told the AP that "even for the U.S. nuclear industry, such a cleanup and decommissioning would be a great challenge.’’

Advocating for an international team of experts to help tackle increasingly dangerous situation in Fukushima, Tokuhiro added, ‘‘It is clear that this very large undertaking requires an international effort.’’

AP continues:

Decommissioning a nuclear power plant normally involves first bringing the reactor cores to stable shutdown, and then eventually removing them for long-term storage. It is a process that takes years. Throughout, radiation levels and worker exposure must be monitored.

At Fukushima, there is the daunting challenge of taking out cores that suffered meltdown, which is the most dangerous type of nuclear power accident. Their exact location within the reactor units isn’t known and needs to be ascertained so their condition can be analyzed. That will require development of nimble robots capable of withstanding high radiation.

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