What's more pressing at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is not measuring radiation levels around the SGTS pipe where 25 sieverts/hour radiation source may be inside (to be sure, again, this 25 sieverts/hour was NOT measured but derived by calculation), nor removing the fuel assemblies from the Spent Fuel Pool on the top floor of Reactor 4 (again, not individual "fuel rods" that are inside a fuel assembly), which has the lowest radiation levels of all reactors (except for Reactors 5 and 6, which are in cold shutdown in the true sense of the word).
It is, as late-Masao Yoshida, Fukushima I NPP Plant Manager at the time of the accident, said, what to do with the contaminated water that keeps increasing. Of particular concern (supposedly) of the national government and TEPCO is whether the contaminated groundwater (albeit low contamination of gamma nuclides) is leaking into the plant harbor.
In the embankment between the plant harbor and the turbine buildings for Reactors 1 through 4, workers have been injecting waterglass into the artificial soil there to create impermeable walls in the soil to stop the flow of groundwater into the harbor. Never mind that their very work causes the groundwater to rise and go over the top of the underground impermeable wall, or go somewhere else and find its way to the ocean anyway.
From TEPCO, 12/8/2013 (red lines: silt fences, green lines: soil amendment by waterglass, yellow dots: groundwater monitoring locations):
TEPCO has been frequently monitoring radioactive materials (gamma nuclides such as cesium, all-beta including strontium, and tritium) in the water samples taken from these numerous observation holes in the embankment. However, samples from the seawater in the harbor are taken far less frequently. Nuclear Regulation Authority has been calling for continuous monitoring of seawater for some time, and the topic came up in the third meeting of NRA's ocean monitoring group on December 9, 2013.
But the word that came out of NRA Commissioner Kayoko Nakamura was, "Continuous monitoring system is an expensive purchase..."
From independent journalist Ryuichi Kino, and a togetter on the December 9 NRA meeting on ocean monitoring:
(Kino summarizes the relevant part of the meeting in a dignified way...)
TEPCO is considering three locations near the south discharge and the north discharge to install continuous monitoring system to detect the leak of contaminated water, and explains it is taking time to install because of the rough ocean. People questioning, why not install inside the open channel (inside the harbor near the embankment)?
The question is nothing new. When I asked TEPCO in January this year when they started digging the observation holes along the embankment and analyzed the groundwater samples, TEPCO answered that they were measuring in several locations inside the harbor, and they were measuring in the ocean, too. They could detect the change that way, no problem. That was the answer then, and that is the answer now.
What's at issue now is whether the highly radioactive water from the trench [where extremely radioactive water from March/April 2011 from the reactors sits] or from the reactor buildings is leaking from the embankment or not. The purpose of continuous monitoring is to know immediately if highly radioactive water is leaking. To monitor the change, it's better to monitor closer [to the embankment where the leak may be occurring]. But TEPCO insists on monitoring outside the harbor. I don't understand the reason.
NRA's Kayoko Nakamura says, "Continuous monitoring is an expensive purchase." So it takes time to select [the equipment], she says. Well, what does that mean? It's not the matter of how expensive or how cheap; the opinion of the members is to do it "soon". It is not the thing to be done leisurely over six months or a year.
Ms. Nakamura also says accuracy [of measurement] is important. It is important, as the accuracy has been questioned before. But no information has been disclosed as to which manufacturer and/or experts TEPCO is consulting with and on what. We still don't know the reason why the installation hasn't been done.
(The same discussion, from the togetter; it reads almost like a farce, a comedy routine, where research experts are at a loss what to do with TEPCO...)
TEPCO says it wants to install continuous monitoring instruments OUTSIDE the plant harbor. From NRA's reference document for the meeting (English labels and comment are mine):
Morita [from the Fisheries Agency]: As I said before, I don't understand why you want to install [the continuous monitoring system] outside the harbor. The discharge for Reactors 5/6 pumps out the water from inside the harbor, so there is no point in installing it outside.
Morita: The water is leaking into the open channel, or so it is said. Doesn't it make more sense to install the instrument there? Can you collect daily data outside the harbor?
[To this, TEPCO answers in non-answer by talking about detection limit...]
TEPCO: Detection limit is 0.1Bq/L. The problem is whether to exclude all-beta, but we are aiming at 20Bq/L.
Aoyama [chief researcher from Meteorological Research Institute]: Is it even technically and mechanically possible to continuously monitor all beta? (and Mr. Aoyama buries his head in his hands.)
Aoyama: gamma rays, you mean cesium-137?
TEPCO: Cesium-134 and -137 will be monitored.
Aoyama: I don't understand TEPCO's explanation. If anyone understands, please explain.
Horiguchi [National Science Laboratories Environmental Risk Research Center]: Like Mr. Morita, I don't understand either why the monitoring instruments are not going to be installed inside the harbor. Monitoring should be done at the locations where the leak is suspected. We're getting our priorities wrong. The most important thing is not being done.
Commissioner Nakamura: When you purchase the instrument, make sure you consult radiation specialists. It's an expensive purchase, you know...
Well the priority seems to be the cost.
After the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident, they still think of cost as outlay of money to purchase goods and services. They don't consider the social cost of not starting monitoring the water inside the harbor as soon as possible, particularly inside the open channel right outside the embankment.
As it stands, TEPCO plans to start continuous monitoring OUTSIDE the harbor hopefully next spring, maybe fall.
For TEPCO and the national government, time is indeed money - i.e. money saving.
Reference documents (in Japanese) for the meeting: http://www.nsr.go.jp/committee/yuushikisya/kaiyou_monitoring/20131209.html
Cheerful Commissioner Kayoko Makamura: