Fukushima Leaks Radioactive Water, Again

Japan and the surrounding Pacific Ocean are once again in danger of radioactive water contamination in the ongoing radiation containment battle at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Over the weekend, news reports erupted on the Web that as much as 220 tons of radioactive wastewater leaked from the Fukushima plant equal to approximately 110,000 gallons of highly contaminated water, presumably containing radioactive isotopes of cesium, iodine and strontium.

The entire plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), is made up of six water reactors; each part of the plant has been struggling with continuous equipment failures, meltdowns and the release of nuclear materials following the Tohoku earthquake and Tsunami this past March.

The nuclear aftermath, which occurred on Sunday, Dec. 3, is claimed to be the second worst nuclear accident after the 1986 Chernobyl incident.

TEPCO immediately issued a statement in response to the radioactive water apologizing for the continued health and environmental problems plaguing area residents and wildlife.

"We again sincerely apologize for causing worries and troubles to the area residents as well as the society at large for releasing water containing radioactive materials," TEPCO said in a statement.

TEPCO said the leaked water is assumed to contain 26 billion becquerels (units of radiation) of radioactive materials, but does not pose an immediate threat to human life or wildlife.

According to the statement released from TEPCO, the leak occurred in two stages. First, utility workers spotted radioactive water pooling in a catchment next to a purification device, so, they immediately turned the system off to stop it. Second, the utility workers spotted the pooled water escaping through cracks in the catchment attached to a gutter.

TEPCO acknowledges that some water is now in the ocean, and approximately 23.6 million gallons of water remain in each of the six reactor buildings. TEPCO said the water was in the purification process and that it originally had about one million times as much radiation as the maximum level considered safe by the government; however, the water was said to be cleaned of the cancer causing radioactive cesium prior to leaking through the gutter.

Along with the Fukushima leak, traces of radioactive cesium have recently been discovered in Meiji Japanese baby formula – thought to have been caused by radiation to agriculture in the area – now forcing the recall of roughly 400,000 cans of Meiji baby food as a precaution.

This latest incident now threatens the Pacific waters; however, the plant states that the leak does not immediately threaten human life or wildlife. At what point does the plant consider these incidents a threat?

The Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety estimates 27.1 petabecquerels of radioactive cesium has already leaked into the Pacific between March and July.

In April, TEPCO said it planned to reduce the levels of radioactive material released within the next nine months – leading up to a cold shutdown. The timetable and execution of the plant’s plan of action appears to be flawed and now in a major setback with continuous reports of radiation contamination.

There are still three active reactors at the plant.

Posted by Christina Miralla on Dec 07, 2011