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Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant leaks contaminated water

Published time: April 06, 2013 04:17
A general view shows unit three and unit two reactor building (light blue, L) of the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant stands in Okuma Town, in Fukushima prefecture on March 1, 2013.(AFP Photo / Japan Pool via Jiji Press)

A general view shows unit three and unit two reactor building (light blue, L) of the Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant stands in Okuma Town, in Fukushima prefecture on March 1, 2013.(AFP Photo / Japan Pool via Jiji Press)

As many as 120 tons of contaminated water have seeped into the surrounding ground from a compromised tank at Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Though the contaminated water is not expected to reach the sea, as it is located 800 meters inland, Saturday’s incident is yet another reminder to Japan that it will still take decades to fully decommission the facility.

A total of seven water storage tanks were excavated at Fukushima following a massive 9.0 earthquake in 2011, which triggered a tsunami that crippled the plant’s ability to cool its fuel rods. At the time, an all-out effort was made by TEPCO to flood the plant’s reactors with seawater to cool them, though that did not prevent three of the reactors from melting down. Hydrogen reactions also badly damaged the reactors’ housing structures.

This latest incident comes on the heels of failures in the cooling system - only two weeks ago a massive power outage caused the plant’s cooling system to fail for 29 hours. The incident was later attributed to a small animal that had entered an electrical switchboard. In addition, TEPCO conceded that on Friday they had lost the ability to cool the rods at one of the reactors for some three hours following a technical glitch.

Officials with the power company recently admitted that, although it has excavated seven holding tanks, it has struggled to contain groundwater from flooding into the plant’s damaged reactors, and it may take up to four years to correct that issue.

TEPCO is as of yet uncertain what caused one of its seven tanks to leak, though it plans to pump the remaining 13,000 cubic meters of water into other tanks within the next two weeks.

Japan’s government believes a full cleanup of the Fukushima site will take some 40 years, and the cleanup of contaminated areas will cost at least $13 billion.

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