Environmental Protection

Radioactive Leaks: Confirmation, Effects & Untested Solutions

TEPCO admits Fukushima leaking contaminated water into the Pacific while scientists anticipate radioactive particles to reach US shores in three to five years.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) finally admitted that radioactive water has been leaking into the Pacific since disaster struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in 2011. National Geographic reported August 7, 2013 that scientists studying the situation noticed the makeup of the radioactive material leaking from the plant has changed with increased levels of strontium-90. The specific radioactive substance is absorbed differently by the human body and poses different risks to humans. Efforts by TEPCO to contain the contamination include construction of an underground barrier, which breached and further allowed contaminated radioactive water to leak into underground water supplies, which continue to leak into the Pacific. TEPCO’s latest remedy includes an elaborate water filtration system that allegedly removes 62 different radioactive substances, yet some scientists remain skeptical of that process due to the gross amount of contaminated water and concerns that additionally harmful radioactive substances are not filtered out. Scientists developed and applied a mathematical model that estimates contaminated water could reach the US west coast in as little as three to five years.

Arnold Gundersen, founder and president of Fairewinds Associates, suggested to the Voice of Russia on August 7, 2013 that radioactive material spilling from the Fukushima nuclear plant will continue to spill into the Pacific Ocean for 20 to 30 years. “This water is the most radioactive water I’ve ever experienced,” said Gundersen. Gundersen proposed two years ago that the Japanese surround the plant with a trench filled with zeolite, or volcanic ash. “The ash is very good at absorbing radiation,” said Gundersen. Gundersen’s process would have kept water from entering into the contaminated Daiichi site, which subsequently would prohibit contaminated water from leaking back into the Pacific. The Japanese rejected Gundersen’s proposal. “This plant’s been leaking for two years…[and] spike of radiation continues to move to the ocean.” Although the ultimate remedy to contain the radiation is debated, Gundersen believes the financial costs will be high. “I think the cost to clean up just the site is going to be $100 billion,” said Gundersen. “And the cost to clean up the prefecture of Fukushima is going to be another $400 billion. The Japanese government hasn’t told the people that they are on the hook for a half a trillion dollars.
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