On Friday, August 19, 2016, the NRA said the F. Daiichi “ice wall” is failing. (1) Nuclear Regulation Authority panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka explained, “The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing. They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan.”

The Asahi Shimbun alleges that the report of failure is because the amount of groundwater flow on the ocean-side of the wall remains constant. The Asahi fails to understand that the ice wall is only supposed to change flows inside, not outside the wall. This should be self-evident by reading the first bullet on the cover page of Tepco’s weekly report on the thermal status of the wall, “The purpose of the Landside Impermeable Wall construction lies not in freezing soil to form an underground wall but in keeping groundwater from flowing into the reactor/turbine buildings and preventing new contaminated water from being generated.” (2)

The Asahi’s materially-incorrect assertion is analogous to someone building a tall fence to keep deer out of their garden, but calling it a failure because the number of deer seen outside the fence has not changed! The F. Daiichi “ice wall” is designed to keep the groundwater inside the fence from flowing outward and possibly contaminating fresh groundwater flowing from the mountains to the sea. Thus, it makes no rational sense to assume that the NRA’s judgment of “failure” is because groundwater flows outside the ice wall have not changed.

So, where did the Asahi get this incorrect idea from? Is it merely an inability to correctly decipher Tepco’s statement of purpose posted with each and every weekly report? That seems unlikely, to say the least. Surely the staff at the Asahi can read and comprehend! Or, is the Asahi continuing its aversion to statements posted out of the Tepco Press room? Perhaps, but the data being used by the newspaper to make its “failure” rationale is entirely coming from Tepco! In this case, the Asahi would be accepting the data but rejecting Tepco’s statement of purpose, which would be contradictory. This would also suggest a most egregious form of cherry-picking.

The only remaining option is that the Asahi has garnered the incorrect notion from the NRA! If this is the case, we are faced with a far worse situation. The NRA is supposed to have sufficient engineering and technical expertise to regulate with expert capability. But, if it promotes this sort of misinformational speculation – and proffers it as fact – then we have a regulatory failure!

The reason for our critical questioning of the Asahi is that it has the second-largest, circulation of all newspapers in Japan (12 million), exceeded only by the Yomiuri Shimbun (14 million). The Asahi is read by at least 10% of Japan’s adult population, thus it is an important source of information in the minds of a significant number of Japan’s citizens. That this news outlet provide its readership with correct information, seems essential. Utterly false reporting should be avoided like the plague! It doesn’t matter where the untrue information came from. The Asahi is historically an antinuclear bastion, without question. But, an on-going pursuit of the nuclear-critical persuasion, which flies in the face of truth, is unforgivable! The people of Japan deserve better.

References:

1 – http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201608190060.html
2 – https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2016/images/handouts_160812_01-e.pdf