Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), the operators of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant revealed that two of their underground storage pools are leaking radioactive water. The first leakage was discovered at Pool No 2 on Friday, which had already leaked 120 tons while the second one at pool No 3 had a leak of 3 liters late Sunday.
There are seven huge clay-lined storage pits that are 60 meters long, 53 meters wide and 6 meters deep, with each one covered with three layers of protective waterproof lining. The pools are part of this system and the reason for the leakage will not be determined until the two pools are drained and studied further. No 2 is already currently being drained to another storage area but the leak at No 3 is too small so there may be no need to drain it at this time. There was only .11 becquerel of radioactive material detected in the groundwater outside the external lining of pool No 3 on Saturday and the water level hasn’t fallen so it means the leak is not that large.
While the leaks aren’t that large enough to cause alarm, it raises once again questions about TEPCO’s capabilities to fully decommission the plant. Issues such as their storage strategy for toxic water that may affect the environment continue to plague them. Masayuki Ono, a senior Tepco official, admits that they are finding it difficult to manage their storage problem. Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has basically crippled its regular cooling system, they have been basically pouring water on the damaged reactor cores to stop the overheating. The water used for this has become contaminated, hence the need to store them safely at the plant. They said they have already stored more than a quarter-million tons of these radioactive water and these storage tanks have already filled up every available space in the plant. They are already building more storage space and filtering facilities, especially since the decommissioning is expected to last for decades.
Because of these two leaks, TEPCO said that 120 tons of contaminated water with 710 billion becquerels of radioactivity has leaked into the ground, the biggest leak since the early months after March 2011. While they assured that the water hasn’t reached the sea because the pools are half a mile from the coast, they did not offer any explanation as to where the water might have ended up. They are expecting five more days for them to pump the remaining 13,000 tons of leaked water out of the damaged pools into another pool. In that time, an estimated 47 more tons could possibly leak.
[ via New York Times ]
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