May 21, 2011 / 7:46 AM / 8 years ago

Leak from Japan reactor 100 times more than permitted

Mega-Float, a huge steel floating structure to store contaminated water from the tsunami-crippled Daiichi nuclear power plant, arrives at the quay of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, in this handout photo taken and released by TEPCO on May 21, 2011. REUTERS/Tokyo Electric Power Co/Handout

TOKYO (Reuters) - A water leak from Japan’s tsunami-crippled nuclear power station earlier this month resulted in about 100 times the permitted level of radioactive material flowing into the sea, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said Saturday.

TEPCO said the leak discovered on May 11 at a storage pit outside the No.3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi had started in the early hours of the previous day and lasted for 41 hours, releasing 250 cubic meters of contaminated water into the sea.

An estimated 20 terabecquerels of radioactive material escaped as a result, a company spokesman told a news conference.

Since a devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami in northeastern Japan disabled the plant’s cooling systems, TEPCO has been pouring water and seawater on the reactors to prevent disastrous meltdowns.

The utility has scrambled to find means of storing the contaminated water, some of which has seeped into the ocean and raised concerns from neighboring countries.

In April, the plant’s No.2 reactor developed similar leaks, which the operator managed to seal with liquid glass and other substances. TEPCO later intentionally released low-level radioactive water into the sea after it ran out of storage capacity for more highly contaminated water.

The latest study on the April leak from the No.2 reactor showed it included a total 4,700 terabecquerels of radioactive material in 500 cubic meters of water.

The company reported these new findings to the government’s safety agency late Friday.

Reporting by Risa Maeda; Editing by Alex Richardson

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