Japanese government auditors said the operator of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant has wasted more than a third of the ¥190 billion ($1.6 billion) in taxpayer money allocated for cleaning up the plant after it was destroyed by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
A Board of Audit report describes various expensive machines and untested measures that ended in failure. It also says the cleanup work has been dominated by one group of Japanese utility, construction and electronics giants despite repeated calls for more transparency and greater access for international bidders.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Teruaki Kobayashi said all of the equipment contributed to stabilizing the plant, even though some operated only briefly.
Among the costliest failures was a ¥32 billion ($270 million) machine made by French nuclear giant Areva SA to remove radioactive cesium from water leaking from the three wrecked reactors. The trouble-plagued machine lasted just three months and treated only 77,000 tons of water, a tiny fraction of the volume leaking every day. It has since been replaced with Japanese and American machines.
Sea water was used early in the crisis to cool the reactors after the normal cooling systems failed. Machines costing ¥18.4 billion ($150 million) from several companies including Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy, Toshiba Corp. and Areva were supposed to remove the salt from the contaminated water at the plant. One of the machines functioned only five days, and the longest lasted just six weeks.
TEPCO hurriedly built dozens of storage tanks for the contaminated water at a cost of ¥16 billion ($134 million). The shoddy tanks, using rubber seals and assembled by unskilled workers, began leaking and some water seeped into the ground and then into the ocean. The tanks are now being replaced with more durable welded ones.
Giant underground pools
A total of ¥2.1 billion ($18 million) was spent on seven huge underground pools built by Maeda Corp. to store the contaminated water. They leaked within weeks, and the water had to be transferred to steel tanks.
A ¥100 million ($840,000) project to contain highly contaminated water in a maintenance tunnel by freezing it failed because the water never completely froze. TEPCO subsidiary Tokyo Power Technology even threw in chunks of ice, but eventually had to pour in cement to seal the trench.