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Fukushima’s radiation leaks – a slowly unfolding environmental misery


”There is no precedent for what is happening, so we are on untrodden ground.”

The Fukushima plant’s tainted water continues to contaminate the sea,  Canberra Times, Martin Fackler and Hiroko Tabuchi, 28 Oct 13,  FOR MONTHS now, it has been hard to escape the continuing deluge of bad news from the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Even after the company that operates the plant admitted this summer that tonnes of contaminated groundwater were leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day, new accidents have added to the uncontrolled releases of radioactive materials. Last month, newly tainted rainwater overflowed dykes. Two weeks before that, workers mistakenly disconnected a pipe, dumping 10 more tons of contaminated water onto the ground and dousing themselves in the process.

Those accidents have raised questions about whether the continuing leaks are putting the environment, and by extension the Japanese people, in new danger more than 2½ years after the original disaster – and long after many had hoped natural radioactive decay would have allowed healing to begin.

Interviews with scientists suggest they are struggling to determine which effects – including newly discovered hot spots on a wide swath of the ocean floor near Fukushima – are from recent leaks and which are leftovers from the original disaster. But evidence collected by them and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co, or TEPCO, shows worrying trends.

The latest releases appear to be carrying much more contaminated water than before into the Pacific. And that flow may not slow until at least 2015, when an ice wall around the damaged reactors is supposed to be completed. Beyond that, although many Japanese believed that the plant had stopped spewing radioactive materials long ago, they have continued to seep into the air.

”This has become a slowly unfolding environmental misery,” said Atsunao Marui, a geochemist at the Geological Survey of Japan who has studied contaminated groundwater flowing from the plant. ”If we don’t put a stop to the releases, we risk creating a new man-made disaster.”……

The magnitude of the recent spike in radiation, and the amounts of groundwater involved, has led Michio Aoyama, who is considered an authority on radiation in the sea, to conclude that radioactive caesium-137 may now be leaking into the Pacific at a rate of about 30 billion becquerels per year, or about three times as high as last year. He estimates that strontium-90 may be entering the Pacific at a similar rate…….

The fact that radiation levels are still up to hundreds of times as high as they are in other areas of the sea floor raises the possibility that the spots are being blanketed in new contamination from the plant, he said.

The other possibility, Thornton said, is that radioactive particles released by the original accident bonded to mud on the sea bottom and are not disappearing as quickly as expected.

Less attention has been paid to the continued airborne releases of caesium from the site’s crippled reactors, whose layers of protection were damaged or destroyed. The plant still emits 10 million becquerels per hour into the atmosphere, according to TEPCO.

While the amount of airborne emissions dropped sharply after the accident, which spewed radioactive materials across a wide swath of north-eastern Japan, they have held steady since February 2012, TEPCO said……

”There is no precedent for what is happening, so we are on untrodden ground.”

October 29, 2013 - Posted by | environment, Fukushima 2013, Japan


  1. We are indeed on untrodden ground, but that ground is not very dangerous.

    Comment by KitemanSA | November 6, 2013 | Reply

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