Fri, Oct 04, 2013 - Page 6 News List

New leak found at crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi, firm says

NEW SETBACK:Thousands of tonnes of radioactive water are being stored in temporary tanks and the new leak was found in a section on sloping ground

AFP, TOKYO

Another leak of radioactive water has been found at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, the plant’s Japanese operator said yesterday, the latest setback for the troubled cleanup operations at the broken nuclear power station.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said highly polluted water, which spilled out of a storage tank as it was being filled, may have flowed out into the Pacific Ocean.

The utility, whose efforts to fix the mess at Fukushima have been derided as sloppy, said 430 liters of water with a radioactive load of up to 580,000 becquerels per liter had leaked from one of the 450 tonne tanks because of heavy rainfall brought by a recent typhoon.

A spokesman said it was possible “contaminated water may well have flowed into the sea.”

The tank holds water filtered to remove cesium, but which still contains strontium — an element that accumulates in bones and can cause cancer if consumed.

The contamination level of the water in the new leak compares with government limits of 100 becquerels per kilogram in food and 10 becquerels per liter in drinking water.

TEPCO has found it increasingly difficult to deal with waste water at the plant, which ran out of control following a huge earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The company poured thousands of tonnes of water onto runaway reactors to tame them and continues to douse them to keep them cool.

Thousands of tonnes of radioactive water are being stored in temporary tanks at the complex and the new leak was found in a section where five 450 tonne tanks are placed on slightly sloping ground, the official said.

“Workers were storing water very close to the tanks’ capacity because of the volume of typhoon rainfall,” he said. “As a result, the water overflowed and leaked outside the gutter.”

Only one of the five interconnected tanks has a water-level gauge, he said.

The leak is the latest to hit the plant and will further undermine TEPCO’s credibility in the eyes of an increasingly skeptical public, both domestically and internationally.

In August, 300 tonnes of toxic water was discovered to have leaked from a separate tank.

TEPCO said it had informed the Japanese government of the leak and the country’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has ordered the company to stem the flow and remove any contaminated soil.

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