Radioactive water leaks in Japan
TOKYO — The operator of Japan's tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant said Tuesday that about 80,000 gallons of highly radioactive water have leaked from one of the hundreds of storage tanks there — its worst leak yet from such a vessel.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the contaminated water leaked from a steel storage tank at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Tepco hasn't figured out how or where the water leaked but suspects it did so through a seam on the tank or a valve connected to a gutter around the tank.
Tepco said that because the tank is about 330 feet from the coastline, the leak does not pose an immediate threat to the sea. But Hideka Morimoto, a spokesman for Japan's nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said water could reach the sea via a drain gutter.
Four other tanks of the same design have had similar leaks since last year. The incidents have shaken confidence in the reliability of hundreds of tanks that are crucial for storing what has been a never-ending flow of contaminated water.
“We are extremely concerned,” Morimoto said. He urged Tepco to quickly determine the cause of the leak and its possible effect on water management plans.
Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono said the leaked water seeped into the ground after largely escaping piles of sandbags added to a concrete barrier around the tank.
Workers were pumping out the puddle and the remaining water in the tank and will transfer it to other containers, in a desperate effort to prevent it from escaping into the sea ahead of heavy rain predicted later in the day around Fukushima. By Tuesday afternoon, they had captured only about 1,000 gallons, Ono said.
The water's radiation level, measured about 2 feet above the puddle, was about 100 millisieverts per hour — the maximum cumulative exposure allowed for plant workers over five years, Ono said.
Based on a preliminary assessment, the watchdog defined the leak as a level 1 incident, the second-lowest on an International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale of eight.
The plant suffered multiple meltdowns after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Hundreds of tanks were built around the plant to store massive amounts of contaminated water coming from the three melted reactors, as well as underground water running into reactor and turbine basements.
However, contaminated water that Tepco has been unable to contain continues to enter the Pacific Ocean at a rate of hundreds of tons per day. Much of that is ground water that has mixed with untreated radioactive water at the plant.
The water that leaked from the tank had been partially treated, with cesium and salt removed, before being stored.
Ono said the latest leak was by far the worst from a steel storage tank in terms of volume. The previous four cases involved leakages of only up to 2.5 gallons.
Tepco says the tanks that have leaked use rubber seams that were intended to last about five years. Ono said Tepco plans to build additional tanks with welded seams that are more watertight, but will still have to rely on ones with rubber seams.
About 350 of some 1,000 steel tanks built across the plant complex containing nearly 300,000 tons (80 million gallons) of partially treated contaminated water are less-durable ones with rubber seams.
“We have no choice but keep building tanks, or there is no place to store the contaminated water,” Ono said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Hostage deadline passes as confusion reigns over terms of swap with ISIS
- 3 American contractors killed in apparent Afghan ‘insider attack’
- Deadly attacks pinned on ISIS
- Hezbollah, Israel signal desire to curb fighting
- Have another baby, Chinese officials coax couples
- Rescue workers seek survivors in rubble of children’s hospital
- Putin casts off rich cronies as sanctions hit Russian elite
- Focus shifts as Ebola outbreak slows
- Putin calls threat of more sanctions ‘short-sighted’
- Islamic State forces chased from Syrian Kurdish city
- Colombians celebrate Miss Universe title