Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Monday that it would release almost 11,500 tons of water contaminated with low levels of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean as workers struggle to contain the increasing amounts of dangerous runoff resulting from efforts to cool the plant’s damaged reactors. The water to be released is being dumped to make storage room available for water with more dangerous levels of radiation.
TEOCO has been pumping hundreds of tons of water into four of the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station to cool the nuclear fuel in the reactor core and in spent fuel storage pools. While much of that water is evaporating, a significant amount has also been discovered in various parts of the plant, which was crippled by the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck northeast Japan on March 11.
TEPCO has said it has little choice but to pump more water into the reactors at the moment, since the normal cooling systems at the plant are inoperable and extensive amounts of radioactive material would be released if the reactors melted down fully or if the rods caught fire.
Earlier on Monday, workers’ efforts to plug a leak of contaminated water from the nuclear plant by using sawdust, shredded newspaper and an absorbent powder appeared to be failing. Water with high amounts of radioactive iodine has been leaking directly into the Pacific Ocean from a large crack discovered Saturday in a six-foot-deep pit next to the seawater intake pipes at the No. 2 reactor.
Experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit. Safety officials have said that the water contains one million becquerels per liter of iodine 131, or about 10,000 times the levels normally found in water at a nuclear plant.
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