Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant is bracing itself for Typhoon Francisco, set to hit the country this weekend, by quickly securing new storage space for contaminated rainwater that has already taken up the facility’s entire storage tank capacity.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has been struggling to keep radiation under control ever since the nuclear disaster that took place March 11, 2011, when three of the plant’s reactors were hit by a tsunami, which was triggered by an underground earthquake off the coast of Fukushima. The damaged power plant has been accumulating radioactive water since, but TEPCO is running out of space quickly.
To avert a new disaster triggered by the typhoon, TEPCO proposes
to move the contaminated water into underground storage pools
previously deemed unsafe because of leaks, Japan’s NHK reported
Thursday. There seems to be no alternative, as the typhoon is
The three underground pools proposed for storage have a total
capacity of 9,000 tons. TEPCO stopped using similar models in
April, after the discovery of leaks.
On Wednesday TEPCO said it found 140,000 becquerels of Beta
radiation in a ditch at the power plant – double the figure of
the previous day. TEPCO says this water is now being transferred
to a storage tank.
The typhoon emergency measures come at a particularly anxious
time for Fukushima, where workers are preparing for their most
dangerous cleanup operation yet, which is
slated for November. The operator will attempt to remove 400 tons
of spent fuel from Reactor No. 4.
The need for the November operation is increasingly urgent, even
critical: any light tremor – let alone a full-on earthquake –
could trigger a series of catastrophic leaks, possibly resulting
in the world’s most severe radiological disaster yet.
Recently, as it became clear that nuclear containment costs and a battered economy were taking their toll on finances, the government was forced to step in with funds to try and get the cleanup back on track.
A 20 kilometer no-go zone is currently imposed around the Fukushima plant.