An overflowing tank holding highly contaminated water has overflowed at Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, sending the radioactive material into the pacific ocean.
Tokyo Electric Power Co, or Tepco, have been busy trying to manage the clean-up of the ill-fated Fukushima nuclear power plant; a job that could take decades. One of their make-shift solutions during the cleanup is a series of water tanks meant to hold excess cooling water after it has been pumped over the damaged reactor. The water in the tanks is highly contaminated with several nuclear isotopes, including Strontium-90, one of the most dangerous components in nuclear weapon fallout. The contaminated water has apparently registered as much as 200,000 Bq per liter of beta radiating isotopes. Reuters reports the “legal limit” of Strontium-90 is 30 Bq per liter.
After previous mishaps, Tepco recently vowed to step up their monitoring and water management of the tanks, and the Japanese government even stated that they would fund improvements to the plant’s water management systems. So far, these promises don’t seem to have held. The new breach was discovered by a worker who misjudged how much the tank could hold and thus let 430 liters of contaminated water escape over a 12 hour period. Tepco is filling the tanks to the brim because they lack better solutions for storing it, and as with most things, when you push them to the limits of their capacity, something is bound to break. Unfortunately, there’s not a good solution for the problem: The company has been forced to flush hundreds of tons of water over the damaged reactor to cool it every day, and that water needs to go somewhere. Back in August, a similar tank breach caused 3 metric tons of contaminated water to leak out. The damage doesn’t end there: High levels of radiation near the tanks suggests other structural issues with them.
Officials have stated that the water most likely flowed down a ditch and ended up in the harbor near the Fukushima plant. Luckily, most of the radioactive material seems to have settled there, so the leak will not be any immediate threat to other nations bordering the pacific.