(The Pontiac Tribune) — In what seems to be a never – ending series of mishaps at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) announced the discovery of more radiation leaks on Friday.
A worker noticed a three square inch wet patch near one of the older containment tanks, and a measurement taken from that surface detected 70 millisieverts per hour (mSv/h) of beta ray – emitting radioactivity — a rate which, under normal circumstances, would call for immediate evacuation. Tepco said this leak, which amounted to about 1/3 oz, appeared to come from under the tank.
Sandbags were put in place to prevent further contamination. These older tanks, of which there are approximately 350 on-site, are sealed with bolts instead of welding and have been the notorious source of leaks in the past.
New storage tanks are continually constructed to deal with the 80,000 or so gallons of highly radioactive water accumulated each day in the process of keeping the reactors’ corium sufficiently cool; and though the total number of tanks is unknown, estimates indicate there could be anywhere from 1,500 to 2,000 of them to date.
The leak was discovered on the same day testing began for an underground frozen soil wall being developed since June 2014, which is intended to both curb the massive groundwater influx as well as prevent contaminated water from seeping out to the ocean.
Stretching 0.9 miles in length, this frozen barrier is being created using a series of pipes spaced 3.3 three feet apart and buried almost 100 feet deep, which will constantly circulate a liquid of – 22°F. Possible complications could occur with existing subterranean pipes, and Tepco isn’t yet certain if the freeze necessary can be accomplished in areas with large volumes of groundwater.
The freezing process along the entire wall was originally slated to begin by March, but many complications and the decision to carry out preliminary tests have forced delays. A new target date has yet to be determined.
News of the leakage from the tank comes less than two weeks after an unknown quantity of radioactive water was released into the Pacific following a power outage. All eight pumps being used to transfer water from a contaminated ditch to an artificial bay in front of the plant had to be shut down when the loss of power was discovered. Tepco is investigating the incident, but hasn’t released any information about the scope of the leak at this time.
Decommissioning of the crippled plant has been beset with various setbacks and accidents from the time an earthquake and tsunami triggered the original disaster in March 2011. Leaks are a common occurrence, and no viable method has been developed to deal with containing the massive quantities of radioactive water, so containment tanks like those previously mentioned, are constantly being constructed at the site.
Due to regulations regarding safe levels of exposure to contaminated material, less experienced workers must be hired for such duties as tank construction. For the year ending this March, there were 63 worker injuries and one fatality, which occurred when a worker fell from a tank. This is double the rate of the previous time period, and 70% of those injured had less than one year of experience.
As of yet, there is no date known for completion of the decommissioning project for Fukushima Daiichi.
In the meantime, Kyushu Electric Power Company is planning to have its Sendai 1 nuclear plant in full operation by August after a lawsuit citing safety concerns was rejected in court. It will be the first of Japan’s 48 serviceable nuclear power plants to go back online since they were all idled after the Fukushima disaster.
The following video from Fukushima prefecture was captured by a drone and shows the sheer volume of radioactive waste from cleanup efforts being stored in bags, just feet from the sea.
(Feat. Image: Reuters/Kyodo)