Naohiro Masuda, the Chief Decommissioning Officer of the Fukushima nuclear plant, said on Wednesday that operators have yet to locate where the melted nuclear fuel has gone, five years after the meltdown caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“There are melted fuels in units 1, 2 and 3,” Masuda said. “Frankly, we do not really know what the situation is for these (melted fuel), nor where it has gone.”
Speaking to reporters ahead of the disaster’s anniversary on 11 March, Masuda described the first few years of decommissioning work as comparable to working in a “field hospital.”
“The reality at Fukushima Dai-ichi was that we had to work day to day dealing with unexpected difficulties showering down,” Masuda said. “Things have finally started to calm down, we are now able to look ahead in our work, and I am confident that we have made great strides especially in this past year.”
He added, however, that progress have been made in the cleanup over the past year, in particular with treating contaminated water at the plant and preventing leakage into the ocean.
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Three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered meltdowns after being damaged by a massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The accident released large amounts of radiation, forcing tens of thousands of people to evacuate.
Meanwhile, three former Japanese utility executives were formally charged Monday with negligence in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, becoming the first officials from the company to face a criminal trial.
Five court-appointed lawyers indicted Tsunehisa Katsumata, chairman of Tokyo Electric power Co. at the time of the crisis, and two other TEPCO executives, according to the lawyers’ offices. The three men, charged with professional negligence, were not taken into custody.
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Proving criminal responsibility for failing to prevent the Fukushima meltdowns may be difficult, but many people, including residents of the area affected by the disaster, say they hope any trial will reveal information about the disaster and TEPCO’s role that has not been disclosed by the utility.
“I believe truths about the accident that we are not told of yet will be revealed in court, and that a fair ruling will be handed down to the defendants for their responsibility,” said Ruiko Muto, head of a group of more than 5,000 people from Fukushima and other parts of Japan that filed the criminal complaint four years ago.
-With files from Mari Yamaguchi