Decontamination plans of the exclusion zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant have proven to be more complicated than originally thought, a setback that will add three years to the cleanup schedule.
Tens of thousands of workers are already involved in the massive cleanup of six towns and villages close to the stricken plant, removing millions of tons of topsoil and vegetation. But work is yet to begin in the most highly contaminated areas.
Another challenge is the lack of space for dumping the waste from the decontamination work, the BBC reports.
By the look of things, the cleanup period would have to be extended to 2017, the government said. The initial target deadline was March next year.
The delay means that more than 90,000 people are unable to return home until the cleanup is completed.
The embattled plant has been hit by a series of toxic water leaks in the last few months.
Water is being pumped in to cool the damaged reactors, creating a large amount of irradiated water that must be stored securely. However, some of the water has leaked from the tanks, pipes and damaged structures, leading to concerns that contaminated water has seeped into the ground and reached the sea.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co reported on Sunday that water with high levels of isotope Strontium-90 have overflowed from containment barriers around storage tanks in the aftermath of Typhoon Wipha last week.
Strontium-90 is a highly dangerous as it gets easily absorbed by the human body and is thought to be a cause of bone cancer.
Tepco revealed that readings of Strontium-90 at one site were 70 times the legal limit for safe disposal.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image: IAEA Imagebank/Flickr