That was what struck me when I read the IAEA press release. The observations and other recommendations they made after visiting Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on April 17, 2013 and meeting with government and TEPCO officials are what you would expect - i.e. nothing new.
But this suggestion by the IAEA team led by Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology, must have confounded the Japanese, who continue to operate on a crisis mode on a low budget after more than 2 years (TEPCO) and who somehow believe decommissioning will be done in less than 30 years (METI and the government):
"Launching efforts to define an end-state of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station site would help focus decommissioning efforts. This effort should be pursued with effective stakeholder involvement."
What end result do you want? What do you want to have happened to the plant and the site by the end of decommissioning? Then, can you figure out the steps to get there?
For those of you who think the so-called "roadmap" is what spells out such things, you're asking too much. There is no hard-thinking in the roadmap, and there is no end-game envisioned; it doesn't even include budgeting or solid human resource management for the project that will last for at least several decades. TEPCO and the government are probably hoping that by doing the work day after day transferring water and picking up rats diligently will somehow result in decommissioning in several decades from now. (You can review the roadmap yourself at TEPCO's sites, in Japanese here, only digest version in English here.)
Browsing the news in Japan on the IAEA visit and the initial review, I didn't even find a mention of this particular point. It probably totally lost on the reporters, too.
From IAEA press release (4/22/2013):
IAEA Team Completes Initial Review of Japan’s Plans to Decommission Fukushima Daiichi
22 April 2013 | Tokyo, Japan -- An IAEA expert team today completed an initial review of Japan's efforts to plan and implement the decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The International Peer Review of Japan's Mid-and-Long-Term Roadmap towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4 conducted its visit from 15 to 22 April 2013.
As requested by the Government of Japan, the IAEA team held extensive discussions with officials from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). The team also met with officials of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The team visited the nuclear accident site to gain first-hand information about conditions at the power plant and progress toward decommissioning the facility.
"Extraordinarily committed workers have made significant accomplishments at Fukushima Daiichi since the March 2011 accident, but Japan continues to face difficult challenges as it works to decommission the site," said team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Director of Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Waste Technology. "We saw that TEPCO has achieved the stable cooling of the reactors and spent fuel pools at the site."
The 13-member IAEA team examined a wide variety of issues related to decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, such as the Roadmap's overall strategic approach, the current condition of the reactors and spent fuel pools, the management of the huge amount of accumulated water at the site, as well as the radioactive releases.
In a draft report delivered to Japanese authorities today, the team acknowledged a number of accomplishments that have been made to prepare Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station for decommissioning. For example:
In addition, the IAEA team provided advice in areas where current practices could be improved. For example:
Japan has addressed the plant's decommissioning in a timely manner, as demonstrated by its early preparation of the Roadmap and its acceleration of plans to remove fuel from the spent fuel pools at Units 1-4. In addition, Japan has logical and rational plans for the most complex task: removing damaged fuel from the reactors;
TEPCO has successfully deployed advanced and large-scale treatment technologies for decontaminating and desalinating highly radioactive water that has accumulated at the site; and
The Government of Japan and TEPCO have recognized the importance of effective stakeholder involvement and public communication in dealing with decommissioning programmes.
Launching efforts to define an end-state of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station site would help focus decommissioning efforts. This effort should be pursued with effective stakeholder involvement;
An assessment of TEPCO's incident reporting and communication practices - with the government, the regulator, and the public - could help to enhance stakeholder trust and respect;
TEPCO should continue its efforts to improve the reliability of essential systems, to assess the structural integrity of site facilities, and to enhance protection against external hazards; and
Measures should continue to improve management issues regarding radioactive releases and radiation exposures from the site, particularly issues created by the storage of accumulated water. The team encourages Japan to assess the overall benefit of the site-boundary dose limit, particularly in relation to the radiation levels at the site boundary due to solids and liquids stored at the site.
"Our team received good cooperation from all our Japanese counterparts, who are remarkably dedicated to moving forward quickly, yet safely," Lentijo said. "I hope our mission can help their progress, and I know the international community is learning many lessons from the Japanese experience."
The IAEA team's final report will be delivered to Japan within one month.
Japan's request for the mission came in the context of the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety, endorsed by all IAEA Member States in September 2011. The Action Plan defines a programme of work to strengthen the global nuclear safety framework, and it encourages the use of peer review missions to take full advantage of worldwide experience.
The IAEA team also took photos on their own and shared them on Flickr. In this photo, Reactor 2 almost looks pristine, as if nothing has happened in March 2011. (Click to enlarge.)