25 August 2013
Following up on a recent post, the news out of Fukushima just got worse last week in what appears to be shaping up as a major environmental crisis requiring a massive and coordinated international response.
A spike in radioactivity led to the acknowledgement by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) of a leaking tank used to store some of the more heavily contaminated water from the damaged reactor.
Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority responded by raising the threat level from one (anomaly) to three (serious incident) for the first time since the March 2011 meltdown.
The problem extends far beyond leaking tanks, about a third of which were hastily constructed with plastic liners that may be damaged by radiation and weather. Fresh groundwater that flows toward the site from nearby mountains becomes contaminated as it enters the nuclear facility. Crews are playing catch-up, pumping and storing it in tanks. Pumps are not apparently keeping up with the seepage, however, and radioactive contaminated water is reaching the ocean, estimated by Tepco at 300 tons per day (about 88,000 gallons).
From BBC News, Dr. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanagraphic Institute:
“Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow. You can pump out water, but how many tanks can you keep putting on site?”
Consultant Mycle Schneider, again, according to the BBC:
What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.
It was noted this week that Cesium-137 and Cesium-134 levels were elevated, which was attributed to the tank leak(s). However, this could also be due to the soil reaching the limit in its ability to sorb those radioactive cations.