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11 May, 2015

TEPCO Changes Course, and Will Release All Available Radiation Data

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has decided to release all the data on radiation levels measured at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The move was made in response to criticism that it had failed to disclose data on radioactivity beyond designated levels in a drainage channel.

CDO Naohiro Masuda

With the company’s decision to release all data, however, there is concern for how it can be done meaningfully, given that professional expertise is needed to analyze and understand such information properly.

So far, TEPCO has been releasing analytical results of the concentrations of radioactive materials in seawater sampled in the harbor at the Fukushima Daiichi site, as well as the numerical values of groundwater in an area where contaminated water had once leaked. Altogether, it has been providing some 30,000 items of information annually.

The decision to release all the data followed growing criticism from local fishermen after TEPCO disclosed, at the end of February 2015, that rainwater containing highly radioactive materials in a puddle on the roof of the Unit 2 reactor building had made its way to the ocean through a drainage channel called “Drainage K.”

The fishermen’s criticism also stemmed from their belief that the power company, which had been taking periodic measurements around the mouths of the drainage channels since April of last year, had known that levels exceeded regulatory standards but failed to later disclose that information. In fact, though, the levels outside the Fukushima Daiichi premises and harbor were within regulatory limits.

As a result, TEPCO decided to release all data. It has also been including additional information on its website since April 30, such as numerical values confirming the performance of the multi-nuclide removal equipment it is using, known as the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS).

The power company will continue to add to and release its information steadily, and expects to be fully disclosing all data starting this summer. It estimates that the total information to be provided annually for public viewing will amount to some 70,000 items, more than double the current number.

At the moment, TEPCO’s internal documents are published in PDF format, nearly “as is.” However, it is obvious that raw numerical values and symbols cannot be appreciated without professional understanding. The power company said that it would hold explanatory press conferences whenever there were abnormal changes in numerical values.

In response to that, some Japanese media representatives complained that such abnormal changes would be “overlooked” by them unless TEPCO highlighted them.

The media say they might “overlook” something. The entire situation is bizarre and chaotic. After incessantly demanding information disclosure, the media themselves now illustrate the simple truth that such information is meaningless without the ability to analyze and understand it. Where is their professional pride?

At a press conference on April 30, Naohiro Masuda, Chief Decommissioning Officer at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company, explained that while some of the information would not be understood, “we are focused on releasing the data first.” He said that his company would search for a way to release data effectively, such that it could be understood, but had not found one yet.

TEPCO has already expended considerable manpower just releasing data, adding to the existing burden and amplifying the exhaustion of the people working at the Fukushima Daiichi site.

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