Fukushima Plant Leaking Radiation Directly Into Ocean For Two Years

Looks like that cat's on the roof again! Don't think because it's not on the front page anymore that the problems went away. They didn't:

Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Japan, and the country’s chief nuclear regulator announced on Wednesday, that the nuclear power plant at Fukushima, has been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for the two years since the accident that saw three of the plants six reactors suffer a meltdown.

The problem stems from the fact that ground water is leaking into the basement of the damaged reactors, and becoming contaminated, and whilst that water is being pumped out and stored in huge tanks on site, the inflow has not yet been stopped, meaning that ever more ground water enters the basement and becomes contaminated.

Tanaka explains that neither his staff, nor those working for the plant’s operator have discovered where the leaks are coming from, and therefore have not been able to stop them.

Tepco, the power plants operator, has constantly denied that any of that water has been leaking into the Ocean, but in the last few days it has switched its position and finally admitted that it can’t actually say for sure that the water is not leaking into the sea. Tepco has also admitted that the amounts of radioactive cesium, tritium, and strontium detected in groundwater around the plant has been growing, making the job of sealing the leaks even more urgent. Cesium and Strontium are especially dangerous to humans.

Tanaka claims that the evidence that the water is reaching the sea is overwhelming. “We’ve seen for a fact that levels of radioactivity in the seawater remain high, and contamination continues — I don’t think anyone can deny that. We must take action as soon as possible. That said, considering the state of the plant, it’s difficult to find a solution today or tomorrow. That’s probably not satisfactory to many of you. But that’s the reality we face after an accident like this.”

William Boardman at OpEd News offers more detail about a recent spike in radiation:

Perhaps you've heard that radiation levels of the water leaving the Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power plane and flowing into the Pacific Ocean have risen by roughly 9,000 per cent. Turns out, that's probably putting a good face on it. By official measurement, the water coming out of Fukushima is currently 90,000 times more radioactive than officially "safe" drinking water. These are the highest radiation levels measured at Fukusmima since March 2011, when an earthquake-triggered tsunami destroyed the plant's four nuclear reactors, three of which melted down.

As with all nuclear reporting, precise and reliable details are hard to come by, but the current picture as of July 10 seems to be something like this:

  • On July 5, radiation levels at Fukushima were what passes for "normal," which means elevated and dangerous, but stable, according to measurements by the owner, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).
  • On July 8, radiation levels had jumped about 90 times higher, as typically reported. TEPCO had no explanation for the increase.
  • On July 9, radiation levels were up again from the previous day, but at a slower rate, about 22 per cent. TEPCO still had no explanation.
  • On July 10, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a statement saying that the NRA strongly suspects the radioactive water is coming from Fukushima's Reactor #1 and is going into the Pacific.

[...] The water flow through the Fukushima accident site is substantial and constant, both from groundwater and from water pumped into the reactors and fuel pools to prevent further meltdowns.

In an effort to prevent the water from reaching the ocean, TEPCO is building what amounts to a huge, underground dike -- "a deeply sunken coastal containment wall." The NRA is calling on TEPCO to finish the project before its scheduled 2015 completion date.

Meanwhile, radiation levels remain high and no one knows for sure how to bring them down, or even if they can be brought down by any means other than waiting however long it takes.


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