The Fukushima nuclear power plant may be close to pouring radioactive water directly into the Pacific Ocean, dwarfing concerns earlier this week over a leaky storage tank that also holds radioactive water, Mari Yamaguchi reported at Time.
Fukushima damaged by tsunami
The power plant, which was damaged by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami in 2011 has been using ad hoc measures to keep nuclear material from overheating, and now it turns out that those measures have been steadily draining radioactive water into a reservoir beneath the plant. Scientists say that it’s only a matter of time before it reaches the Pacific Ocean, if it hasn’t done so already, but Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) hasn’t been forthcoming about the situation.
“We’ve suspected (leaks into the ocean) from the beginning,” said local fisherman Masakazu Yabuki. “TEPCO is making it very difficult for us to trust them.” Fishing around Fukushima has been banned since the incident because of contamination, and if water from the reservoir reaches the ocean that ban could become permanent.
Radioactive water movement
“So far, we don’t have convincing data that confirm a leak from the turbine buildings. But we are open to consider any possible path of contamination,” said TEPCO spokesperson Yoshimi Hitosugi, but according to the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency radioactive water from the reservoir is moving at about four meters per month, which means that it should be close to shore by now.
This comes in the immediate wake of the announcement that one of the tanks used to store contaminated water had leaked into the ground and possibly into the sea through a rain gutter. Fukushima currently has 1000 steel tanks holding contaminated water, but the tanks were only meant to last for up to five years. After two years of sitting and a great deal of water treatment left to do, many people are concerned that other tanks will begin to leak as their rubber seals deteriorate. At least two more ‘questionable tanks’ have already been identified.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said that the Japanese government will pay for any measures needed to prevent radioactive water from reaching the ocean, but it could already be too late.