Jul 12, 2013

    Fukushima plant likely leaking since 2011 disaster

    THE stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima has probably been leaking contaminated water into the ocean for two years since an earthquake and tsunami damaged the plant, Japan's chief nuclear regulator said on Wednesday.

    In unusually candid comments, Mr Shunichi Tanaka, the head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said that neither his staff nor the plant's operator knew where the leaks were coming from, or how to stop them.

    The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, has reported spikes in the amounts of radioactive caesium, tritium and strontium detected in groundwater at the plant, adding urgency to the task of sealing any leak.

    Radioactive caesium and strontium, especially, are known to raise risks of cancer in humans.

    Groundwater has been pouring into the basements of the damaged reactor buildings and becoming contaminated.

    Workers have been pumping the water out for storage in dozens of tanks at the plant, but have not stopped the inflow.

    Until recently, Tepco has flatly denied that any of that water was leaking into the ocean.

    Most fish and seafood from along the Fukushima coast are barred from the domestic market and from being exported.

    Seafood caught north and south of Fukushima are tested regularly for radiation, to make sure they are safe for consumption.

    In the wider ocean, the contaminated water becomes too diluted to be harmful.

    AP, NYT