August 20, 2013
Yuhei Sato, the governor of the Fukushima prefecture in Japan, has described a massive leak from a radioactive water storage tank at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as a national emergency.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said approximately 300 tons of the deadly water have leaked from the tanks. TEPCO said the leaks are continuing and the operator has yet to pinpoint the source of the leak. Water discovered near the plant contain extremely high radiation levels – about 100 millisieverts per hour.
Following the Tohoku 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, radiation levels of 400 millisieverts an hour – 167 times the average human’s annual dosage – were reported at the plant. Officials “detected 100 millisieverts per hour of radiation on the surface of puddles near the tanks. The maximum annual exposure limit for nuclear plant workers is 50 millisieverts,” the Japanese Broadcasting Corporation reported on Monday.
“This means you are exposed to the level of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker is allowed to be exposed to in five years,” a TEPCO spokesman told a press conference, according to Reuters.
TEPCO admitted the toxic water may eventually contaminate groundwater and flow into the Pacific Ocean “in the longer term,” according to the news service. “We are transferring the contaminated water from a tank with a leakage problem to unbroken tanks, and retrieving leaked water and soil around it,” he explained.
In July, TEPCO admitted to a series of mistakes and missteps in the effort to contain and clean up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. TEPCO admits groundwater near the plant is contaminated by radioactive matter and toxic water ends up in the sea. The inability of TEPCO to control the situation has cast doubts on whether it can successfully decommission the nuclear plant.