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Leaking Water at Fukushima Increased from ‘Anomaly’ to ‘Serious Incident’

On Wednesday the Japanese nuclear watchdog announced that it was considering boosting the UN’s International Nuclear and Radiological scale rating  at the Fukushima Dai-chi plant from a level one ‘anomaly’ to a level three ‘serious incident.’

This is after Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant’s operator, confirmed that around 300,000 litres of contaminated water had leaked from one of hundreds of steel storage tanks situated all over the plant.

The steel tanks holding contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear power plant
The steel tanks holding contaminated water at the Fukushima Dai-chi nuclear power plant. (CBC)

Around 350 of the 1,000 storage tanks found cross the whole of the power plant site (amounting to 300 million litres) contain partially treated, contaminated water used to keep the melted radioactive fuel cool in the damaged reactors. So far this year this is the fifth of those storage tanks to leak, raising concerns that this might be an event that happens again and again, potentially leading to a disaster almost on a par with the original incident at the power plant in 2011.

Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of the nuclear watchdog, admitted that “that’s what we fear the most. We must remain alert. We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more.”

Related article: Nuclear Power Finds Small Beautiful

TEPCO are unable to find where abouts the leaks are coming from, and are therefore unable to solve the problem outright; left only with the option of pumping the leaked water back into another tank for storage.

Trying to determine what to do with the contaminated water stuck in the storage tanks is one of the largest issues in the clean-up process.

Officials from the nuclear watchdog noted that the TEPCO workers charged with patrolling the plant and searching for leaks had been very lax in their duties, basically just taking a walk around the facility, and missing the most telling signs of the problem. They claimed that the workers had never checked the water levels inside the tanks, so were unaware when the leaks began.

Despite the hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water that TEPCO is unable to prevent from leaking into the Pacific Ocean each day, Masayuki Ono, the spokesman for TEPCO, assured that this leaking tank is nearly 500 metres from the coast, and therefore poses little threat to the sea. Although watchdog officials stated that the leaked water could indeed reach the sea via drainage gutters.

By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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