The Fukushima Daiichi holding tank leak was declared a Level 3 "serious incident" August 28. On August 25, Japan's Trade Minister accused TEPCO of turning the cleanup into "a game of Whack-a-Mole." The government says it will take over the cleanup.
After weeks of denials, TEPCO admitted on August 19 that it had known since early July that a significant increase in radiation had occurred. It did not investigate, so it did not know until just before August 19 that a slug of heavily contaminated water had escaped a newly constructed storage tank and apparently contacted ground water. They have also admitted that the groundwater is closer to ground surface than they had previously reported, and that this was not new knowledge. Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi visited the Daiichi plant a week after the admission and upon exiting told reporters, "We've allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they've essentially turned it into a game of 'Whack-a-Mole.' From now on, the government will move to the forefront." The government has also announced that it will tap its $3.55 billion emergency fund to help deal with this latest problem.
Following that announcement, and after consultation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Japan's Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) increased the threat level assigned to the leak from Level 1 "anomaly," to Level 3 "serious incident." It is unclear what effect this increased rating will have, since the original incident is rated a Level 7, which is the highest level of risk for a nuclear incident at a civilian facility.
The NRA has expressed substantial frustration with TEPCO, declaring that they have followed none of the agency's recommendations, whether written or oral. This has led to misinformation, much of which appears to be deliberate obfuscation on the part of TEPCO. Elevated radiation readings, for instance, were evident over groundwater monitoring sites six weeks before the discovery that the newest tank had released 300 tons of water, but there was no effort to identify the source. TEPCO assigned just eight men to perform two-hour walkabouts inspecting the contaminated water storage tanks. The inspections were intended to cover a thousand tanks, but did not include radiation detectors, and were not properly logged. TEPCO has now agreed to hire a total of 50 inspectors, but there remains the matter of historically deliberate refusal to accurately describe what it really knew about conditions on and under the ground. It has been evident from the beginning that TEPCO's primary purpose seems to be to lose the company's face, however inevitable that might be, as slowly as possible. This policy has led to deception, misinformation and outright refusal to collect data. It is definitely time for the government to take charge of this, if it really can.
TEPCO has also said it will request assistance from the international nuclear community. Russia has already offered assistance, reiterating an offer made two years ago. In an interview with Bloomberg, Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom, the state-owned Russian nuclear utility said, "In our globalized nuclear industry we don't have national accidents, they are all international." The United States and France are also considered likely candidates to assist in the cleanup.
Despite all this, there are models that show the Fukushima Daiichi plume will reach the west coast of the USA (and probably southern British Columbia, Canada, as well) sometime in 2014, and will move downcoast through 2025. The study is reported in Oceanographic Research Papers. Whether the reported levels of contamination at that time will be dangerous is not discussed. It certainly seems it should have been, since Americans are notoriously chemophobic, a condition that appears to include nuclear issues as well, and Americans are the most likely to be affected.
Given the recent reemergence of the Daiichi disaster as a significant threat to Japan's health (and national budget), and the evidence that the contaminated water plume in the Pacific Ocean will contact the west coast of both The USA and Canada beginning next year, it is surprising that no major USA news source comes up in a Google or Bing search. Searching the last seven days in even West Coast USA papers came up with nothing of significance. Perhaps they're waiting for deaths to occur before it's worth reporting?