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Fukushima's continuing problems

Author : Alan Franck, Editor, HazardEx

12 April 2013

In early April, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the Japanese utility that runs the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said that three out of seven underground storage tanks were leaking radioactive liquids, confirming the country’s continuing difficulties in cleaning up after the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

The plant, devastated by a tsunami two years ago, uses the underground tanks as primary containment for contaminated water. Tepco managers say they are ‘losing faith’ in the tanks, but have nowhere else to store the water.

The company has stepped up construction of sturdier above-ground tanks, but does not yet have the capacity to empty the underground storage pools. 

Hundreds of thousands of litres of contaminated water have leaked from the tanks, and the plant's cooling system has also broken down twice in recent weeks.

Last month, a senior Tepco executive said the company was struggling to stop groundwater flooding into the damaged reactor buildings and it may take as long as four years to fix the problem.

Tepco’s continuing failure to get on top of Fukushima’s contamination problems is a running sore in the country’s efforts to draw a line under the disaster and move on. It is a particular embarrassment for the Government of Shinzo Abe, who is keen to resume large-scale nuclear generation in Japan.

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