No one at Fukushima seems to have any idea what they’re doing

In the latest "mishap," six workers splashed themselves with highly radioactive water

Topics: Fukushima, Nuclear Reactor, Radiation, Japan, ,

Here are just a few of the things that have gone wrong at Fukushima’s crippled nuclear plant in the past month alone:

  • Sept. 19: 80 gallons of water leaked from fire-fighting pipe damaged during debris removal operations.
  • Sept. 26: A fence set up to contain radioactive sediment from spilling into the sea was found to have a hole in it.
  • Sept. 27: After months spent repairing it, a water-treatment machine failed. It was found to be clogged by a piece of rubber that was mistakenly left inside it.
  • Oct. 2: Workers pumped too much radioactive water into a storage tank, causing it to overflow and spill 110 gallons of radioactive water into the sea.
  • Oct. 9: Six workers were accidentally doused with highly radioactive water after removing the wrong pipe from equipment.

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All this, of course, is in addition to TEPCO, the plant’s operator, admitting in August that 300 tons of contaminated groundwater was leaking into the ocean each day. The latest incident released about 10 tons of toxic water, although none is believed to have reached the ocean. The workers, who were wearing protective suits and masks, are believed to be unharmed.

The continual mishaps, reports suggest, can be attributed to a mixture of structure inadequacies and human error. The overflowed storage tank, for example, was missing a gauge that could have warned the workers that it was already filled to capacity. Moreover, it was placed on uneven ground, causing it to tilt toward the sea.

But lowered morale, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told reporters, might also be affecting workers’ ability to do their jobs safely. “People usually don’t make silly, careless mistakes when working in positive environment and motivated,” Tanaka said. “The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems.”

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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