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TEPCO reports new radioactive leak from Fukushima

20 February 2014

On February 20, Japanese utility TEPCO said that some 100 tonnes of radioactive water may have escaped a concrete tank holding contaminated water at the stricken Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant. The latest leak is the most serious since August, when the plant lost 300 tonnes of water, prompting Japan's nuclear agency to raise the incident's alert level.

Storage tanks at Fukushima Dai-ichi - Photo: IAEA
Storage tanks at Fukushima Dai-ichi - Photo: IAEA

The plant, which was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has faced multiple problems including leaks and power cuts since the disaster. 

Beta radiation readings of 230 million becquerels per litre were taken in a sample collected from a gutter on top of the leaked tank at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, according to a statement from the Tokyo-based utility. A becquerel is a unit used to measure radioactivity. WHO guidance advises against drinking water with radioactivity levels higher than 10 becquerels per litre.

The four nuclear reactors’ cooling systems at the Fukushima plant were knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami, causing meltdowns at three of them. Water is pumped in to cool the reactor fuel, but this creates large amounts of contaminated water that must be stored securely.

TEPCO has installed about a thousand tanks at Fukushima to store hundreds of thousands of tonnes of water used to cool the fuel.

Contaminated groundwater seeps into the ocean each day from the plant, Bloomberg quoted the Japanese government as saying.

Between May 2011 and August 2013, as many as 20 trillion becquerels of caesium-137, 10 trillion becquerels of strontium-90 and 40 trillion becquerels of tritium entered the ocean via groundwater, according to past statements from TEPCO, Bloomberg said.

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