TOKYO Aug 3 Radioactive groundwater at the
crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has risen to levels above a
barrier being built to contain it, highlighting the risk of an
increasing amount of contaminated water reaching the sea,
Japanese media reported on Saturday.
The Asahi newspaper, citing data from a Friday meeting of a
task force working on the Fukushima clean-up at Japan's nuclear
regulator, estimated that the contaminated water could swell to
the ground surface within three weeks.
The latest revelation underscores the hurdles facing Tokyo
Electric Power (TEPCO) 2-1/2 years after a massive
earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima plant, triggering
the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
One of Tepco's biggest challenges is trying to contain
radioactive water that cools the reactors as it mixes with some
400 tonnes of fresh groundwater pouring into the plant daily.
Tepco has been injecting a chemical into the ground to build
barriers to contain the groundwater. But the method is only
effective in solidifying the ground from 1.8 meters below the
surface, whereas data from test wells shows the contaminated
water has risen to one metre below the surface, the Asahi said.
No one at Tepco or the regulator, the Nuclear Regulation
Authority (NRA), could be reached for comment.
At Friday's meeting a Tepco official said equipment to pump
out the water should be ready in late August, the Asahi said.
The Asahi noted that Tepco would need to pump out about 100
tonnes of water each day to prevent leakage into the ocean but
that it was not clear where the water would be stored. More than
85 percent of its 380,000 tonnes of storage capacity is already
filled, and Tepco has acknowledged it could run out of space.
Last month Tepco reversed months of denials and acknowledged
that radioactive water has been leaking into the ocean.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne)