Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster stricken Fukushima nuclear facility, has revealed that another of the storage tanks holding highly irradiated water is leaking, and that some of this water may have reached the Pacific Ocean. Apart from the around 300 tons of contaminated groundwater leaking into the world’s largest body of water already admitted by the embattled utility company, this is the second such leak of highly contaminated waste water being used to cool down the molten reactors of the power plant to happen in less than two months.
TEPCO management said that leaked water contained around 200,000 becquerels per liter of beta radiation-emitting isotopes, including strontium 90. For comparison, the safe legal limit for strontium 90 is 30 becquerels per liter. TEPCO has had to rely on hastily-built above ground tanks to hold the waste water – of which 400 tons are created on a daily basis – when it was discovered that the original underground storage built for such purposes were leaking straight into the ground. This current breach was discovered in a tank holding area away from where 300 tons of toxic water escaped in August. In this latest leak, one of the tanks was found to be tilting at an awkward angle, so that the water was sloshing out of the top, a TEPCO spokesman revealed.
A long series of mishaps and high-profile leaks have kept TEPCO – and by extension the Japanese government – in the public eye, and subject even to international criticism for their methods of dealing with the crisis. The public has called into question the utility’s capability of handling the complicated cleanup that is expected to take decades to complete. Amid the concern, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the government will be stepping in with funds to improve water management at the plant.