“On Friday, I made my first visit to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. It is stunning that one can see firsthand the destructive force of the tsunami even more than two and a half years after the tragic events. The words of President Obama following the incident still hold true today: ‘The Japanese people are not alone in this time of great trial and sorrow. Across the Pacific, they will find a hand of support extended from the United States as they get back on their feet.’ My colleagues from the Department of Energy and I are grateful for the cooperation and openness of our host, TEPCO President Hirose, and his dedicated staff. They face a daunting task in the cleanup and decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi, one that will take decades and is being carried out under very challenging conditions. The TEPCO workforce is facing unprecedented challenges and is clearly focused on devising and implementing solutions.
“From the beginning, the United States has worked to support the Government of Japan in the immediate response efforts and in recovery, decommissioning, and cleanup activities. Within days of the accident, the Department of Energy sent a team of 34 experts and more than 17,000 pounds of equipment in support of efforts to manage the crisis. I was able to witness firsthand the continuing partnership between TEPCO and U.S. agencies and companies.
“The DOE, our national labs, and U.S. companies will continue to offer our experience and capabilities to assist the Japanese government and TEPCO, especially with regard to water contamination issues. On Thursday, we were able to meet with Prime Minister Abe, METI Minister Motegi, and other senior members of the Japanese government. Their commitment to advancing the Convention on Supplementing Compensation of Nuclear Liability is much appreciated, since this will facilitate the further engagement of U.S. and other companies in Fukushima cleanup.
“We also witnessed the progress being made on spent fuel removal activities in parallel with the water challenges. It appears that spent nuclear fuel will begin to be removed from Unit 4 as scheduled in mid-November. This will be significant milestone for TEPCO and the Japanese Government and in the process of decommissioning the site.
“As Japan continues to chart its sovereign path forward on the cleanup at the Fukushima site and works to determine the future of their energy economy, the United States stands ready to continue assisting our partners in this daunting yet indispensable task. The United States and Japan created the Bilateral Commission to strengthen our strategic and practical engagement on civil nuclear R&D, Fukushima cleanup, emergency response, nuclear safety regulatory matters, and nuclear security and nonproliferation, and we look forward to the commission meeting next week in Washington, D.C.”