It only took TEPCO about two weeks to realize what had been so glaringly obviously to many - namely that the company is largely unprepared to deal successfully with the Fukushima catastrophe on its own. Reuters reports that TEPCO, which has conceded it faces a protracted
and uncertain operation to contain the crisis, sought outside help,
asking help from French firms including Electricite de France SA and
Areva SA. The question now arises whether it is too late for any help to come, and how fast before the sudden inlfux of new cooks spoils the radioactive broth. The news comes after TEPCO announced highly radioactive water has leaked from a reactor
at Japan's crippled nuclear complex, as environmental group Greenpeace said it had detected high
levels of radiation outside an exclusion zone.
Reflecting growing unease about efforts to control the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi complex, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) had appealed to French companies for help, the Kyodo news agency said.
The plant, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, was damaged in a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across northeast Japan.
Fires, explosions and radiation leaks have repeatedly forced engineers to suspend efforts to stabilise the plant, including on Sunday when radiation levels spiked to 100,000 times above normal in water inside reactor No. 2.
Apparently one can have a partial meltdown, which is comparable to being only partially pregnant:
A partial meltdown of fuel rods inside the reactor vessel was responsible for the high levels of radiation at that reactor although Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the radiation had mainly been contained in the reactor building.
TEPCO later said radiation above 1,000 millisieverts per hour was found in water in tunnels used for piping outside the reactor.
That is the same as the level discovered on Sunday. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a single dose of 1,000 millisieverts is enough to cause haemorrhaging.
TEPCO officials said the underground tunnels did not flow into the sea but the possibility of radioactive water seeping into the ground could not be ruled out.
And now that Greenpeace is there, things are about to get much worse, as the environmental group is certain to announce radioactivity levels far worse than the government's "conservative" estimates.
Greenpeace said its experts had confirmed radiation levels of up to 10 microsieverts per hour in a village 40 km (25 miles) northwest of the plant. It called for the extension of a 20-km (12-mile) evacuation zone.
"It is clearly not safe for people to remain in Iitate, especially children and pregnant women, when it could mean receiving the maximum allowed annual dose of radiation in only a few days," Greenpeace said in a statement, referring to the village where the radiation reading was taken.
The hilarious thing is that it took just a few hours for the first attempt at discredicitng Greenpeace to arrive: Reuters notes that the Japan Nuclear Agency says Greenpeace's radiation measurements outside evacuation zone can't be considered reliable. As for those uber-reliable measurements from the government:
Residents there have been repeatedly rattled by aftershocks from the strongest earthquake in Japanese history, including a magnitude 6.5 tremor on Monday that triggered a tsunami warning.
"I lived through World War Two, when there was nothing to eat and no clothes to wear. I'll live through this," said Mitsuharu Watanobe, sitting cross-legged on a blanket in an evacuation centre in Fukushima city.
"But the scary thing is the radiation. There is a gap between what the newspapers write and what the government is saying. I want the government to tell the truth more."
So as the pot calls the kettle radioactive it is now glaringly obvious that the strategy here is to stupefy and obfuscate for as long as possible, while it becomes even more obvious that there is absolutely no strategy on how to deal with the biggest nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl. In the meantime BTFD.