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Contaminated Fluid Spills From Japanese Nuclear Plant

June 28, 2011


Roughly 15 tons of radiation-tainted fluid has escaped into the earth from a container at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the nation’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Tuesday (see GSN, June 27).

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power indicated it was looking into the source of a container rupture, which was discovered on Tuesday and then patched, Reuters reported.

Plant personnel have battled to prevent radioactive contaminants from escaping the six-reactor Fukushima facility following a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people dead or missing in Japan. Radiation releases on a level not seen since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster have already forced the evacuation of about 80,000 residents from a 12-mile ring around the facility.

Separately, workers on Tuesday resumed operation of equipment deployed recently at the site for treating contaminated liquid, Tokyo Electric Power representative Junichi Matsumoto said.

The firm has pumped water into the facility on an ongoing basis in an effort to cool components, resulting in roughly 250,000 metric tons of radiation-tainted liquid flooding large portions of the site. The recently deployed cleaning system is key to preventing the plant from exhausting its fluid storage capacity and potentially spilling liquid into the Pacific Ocean, Reuters reported. Technical problems previously forced it to be switched off on multiple occasions (Saoshiro/Kubota, Reuters, June 28).

Meanwhile, doctors detected over 3 millisieverts of radiation in urine samples from 15 inhabitants of the Fukushima jurisdictions of Iitate and Kawamata, indicating radioactive material had entered their bodies, Kyodo News reported on Monday.

“This won’t be a problem if they don’t eat vegetables or other products that are contaminated,” said Nanao Kamada, a former radiation biology professor at Hiroshima University. “But it will be difficult for people to continue living in these areas” (Kyodo News/Japan Times, June 27).

Fukushima prefecture intends to fund the distribution of portable radiation sensors to 280,000 residents younger than 15 years old as well as 20,000 expectant mothers, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Sunday (Asahi Shimbun I, June 26). The government of Fukushima city, the largest population center near the crippled nuclear plant, plans in September to start handing out the devices to inhabitants between four and 15 years old, the Associated Press reported.

“We intend to continue the program for about three months,” local official Koichi Kato said. “We are still considering whether to expand it further to include other residents” (Eric Talmadge, Associated Press/Yahoo!News, June 28).

Elsewhere, the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency on Tuesday said Tokyo Electric Power had failed on March 11 to notify the government of signs of an impending hydrogen blast that took place the following day, the Asahi Shimbun reported (Takashi Sugimoto, Asahi Shimbun II, June 26)


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