Government admits Fukushima leaks

In Other News - August 8th, 2013
Eric Constantineau Fukushima

Two years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan has yet to come to grips with the scale of the damage.

On Wednesday, Reuters reported a government official as saying that up to 300 tons of highly radioactive water may be pouring out into the sea everyday.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) only recently admitted water had leaked at all.

And contaminated water may have been leaking from the plant 220 km (130 miles) northeast of Tokyo into the Pacific Ocean ever since the 2011 nuclear disaster, an official at Japan’s energy ministry told the BBC.

The radioactive fallout is thought to have come from the 400 tons of groundwater pumped into the plant every day to cool the reactors, after cooling systems were damaged.

Reuters said the water spilling into the sea is enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool in a week.

Tepco, however, said the figure was only an estimate, and that it was not clear how much of the water is contaminated.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for the first time, pledged a more prominent role in the clean up of the embattled Fukushima facility.

“Rather than relying on Tokyo Electric, the government will take measures,” Abe told reporters.

“This is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed.”

Stabilizing the badly damaged Fukushima plant is expected to take decades. While Tepco said it had contained toxic water from its reactors, the leaks confirm long-held suspicions that radioactive fallout has found its way to the ocean.

Officials are looking into freezing the soil to keep groundwater out of reactor buildings – a project estimated to cost up to 40 billion yen ($410 million).

by Maesie Bertumen

Photo: Eric Constantineau/Flickr