Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority taskforce has called the situation at Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant an “emergency”. This statement comes just a week after Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) admitted that contaminated water from reactors at the damaged plant has been leaking into the sea.
Taskforce head Shinji Kinjo criticized TEPCO for downplaying the situation and declared that they were not up to the task of containing the crisis.
Contaminated groundwater from reactors that were damaged during the 2011 tsunami has breached an underground barrier created by workers and has been rising to the surface, exceeding legal limits of radioactivity. Contaminated water could rise to the surface in a matter of weeks. Kinjo warned that once the radioactive water reaches the surface it could flow “extremely fast”.
From the BBC:
The contaminated water is thought to have come from the 400 tonnes of groundwater pumped into the plant every day to cool the reactors.
Tepco admitted on Friday that a cumulative 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium may have leaked into the sea since the disaster.
Due to the vast distance and dilution at sea the United States Environmental Protection Agency has downplayed any risk. However, back home in Japan conditions are worrying.
From the Guardian:
Tepco said on Monday that caesium levels at an observation post 53 metres from the sea had jumped in the past week. Readings for caesium-134 were almost 15 times higher at 310 becquerels a litre.
Caesium-137, with a half-life of 30 years, was also 15 times higher than it had been five days ago at 650 becquerels a litre. A much larger spike in radioactive caesium in July in a different well led to Tepco overturning months of denials and admitting that radioactive water had been leaking into the sea.
It isn’t just Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority that is heaping blame on TEPCO. Environmental group Greenpeace stated that TEPCO “is incapable of dealing with this situation” and Former Nuclear power plant designer Masashi Goto declared that the situation is “already beyond what Tepco can handle”.
(both quotes via VOA News)
Even if the Japanese government steps in to take over containment operations, potential developments in this “emergency” over the next few weeks are worrying to say the least.