Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant leaking contaminated water

TOKYO Fri Apr 5, 2013 10:48pm EDT

An aerial view shows Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture March 11, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo

An aerial view shows Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture March 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Kyodo

TOKYO (Reuters) - As much as 120 tons of radioactive water may have leaked from a storage tank at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, contaminating the surrounding ground, Tokyo Electric Power Co said on Saturday.

The power company has yet to discover the cause of the leak, detected on one of seven tanks that store water used to cool the plants reactors, a spokesman for the company, Masayuki Ono, said at a press briefing.

The company plans to pump 13,000 cubic meters of water remaining in the tank to other vessels over the next two weeks.

Water from the leaking tank, which located 800 meters from the coast, is not expected to reach the sea, Kyodo news wire reported, earlier, citing unidentified officials from the utility.

The company did not say how long the tank had been leaking.

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant has faced a range of problems with controlling ground water and maintaining the massive cooling system built to keep the reactors stable.

The power company said on Friday said it lost the ability to cool radioactive fuel rods in one of the plant's reactors for about three hours. It was the second failure of the system to circulate seawater to cool spent fuel rods at the plant in the past three weeks.

The facility was the site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in March 2011 when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered a tsunami that destroyed back-up generators and disabled its cooling system. Three of the reactors melted down.

The storage tanks, pits excavated at the site in the wake of the disaster, are lined with water proof sheets meant to keep the contaminated water from leaking into the soil

Work to decommission the plant is projected to take decades to complete.

(Reporting by Tim Kelly; Editing by Michael Perry)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (8)
WildBillWB wrote:
Worst since Chernobyl? How about worse than Chernobyl.

Apr 06, 2013 1:20am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Mikecimerian wrote:
They still had cooling possibility to prevent reactor meltdown. Their procedures failed to put emphasis on the automatic shut down of a valve connecting to the main condenser units during power loss.

Condenser units were above the reactors, they were meant to cool down the reactor by gravity. An assortment of pipe works made for connecting outside pumps was in place. Engineers had built it this way for a purpose.

One valve per reactor had to be manually opened. It wasn’t in their procedures…

Both tragedies had an important mindset component embedded. In Chernobyl, a party member chief engineer letting political pressure “confuse” his priorities to cover his a** and willing to risk safety.

In Fukushima, it is a blind spot rather than corruption or negligence. In this case, over structured chain of procedures and over reliance on monitoring technology. Ground technicians should have been sent to open the valves (not in the manual, lost in translation?).

International safety organization should review procedures to take into account different cultural work place etiquette for instance.

It is quite possible that blind spots would be found all over the World.

Apr 06, 2013 2:22am EDT  --  Report as abuse
JapanViewer wrote:
Mikec.: Good points. If it turns out that a simple manual intervention could have prevented this disaster, then this would lend a good argument for continued use of nuclear power plants. Nuclear power is actually safer, cleaner and cheaper than most other power plants in use.

Apr 06, 2013 3:36am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.