Fresh leak at Fukushima No. 1 highlights Tepco’s struggle to decommission plant


Sensors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have detected a fresh leak of highly radioactive water to the sea, the plant’s operator announced Sunday, highlighting continued difficulties in decommissioning the crippled atomic station.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the sensors, which were rigged to a gutter that drains rain and groundwater at the plant into a nearby bay, detected contamination levels up to 70 times greater than the already-high radioactive status seen on the plant grounds.

Tepco said its emergency inspections of tanks storing nuclear wastewater did not find any additional abnormalities, but the firm said it closed the gutter to prevent radioactive water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The higher-than-normal levels of contamination were detected at around 10 a.m., with sensors showing radiation levels 50 to 70 times greater than usual, Tepco said.

The levels of beta ray-emitting substances, such as strontium-90, measured 5,050 to 7,230 becquerels per liter of water between 10:20 a.m. and 10:50 a.m. Tepco requires radioactivity levels of groundwater at the plant discharged into the sea to remain below 5 becquerels.

Though contamination levels had steadily fallen throughout the day, the same sensors were still showing contamination levels about 10 to 20 times more than usual, a company spokesman said later in the day.

It was not immediately clear what caused the original spike and its gradual fall, he added.

“With emergency surveys of the plant and monitoring of other sensors, we have no reason to believe tanks storing radioactive wastewater have leaked,” he said.

“We have shut the gutter (from draining water to the bay). We are currently monitoring the sensors at the gutter and seeing the trend,” he said.

The latest incident, one of several that have plagued the plant in recent months, reflects the difficulty in controlling and decommissioning the plant, which suffered a triple-meltdown and explosions after being battered by a giant quake and tsunami in March 2011, sparking the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a generation.

Tepco has been unable to effectively deal with an increasing amount of contaminated water, which is used to cool the crippled reactors and molten fuel inside them and is kept in large storage tanks on the plant’s vast spread.

Adding to Tepco’s headaches has been the persistent flow of groundwater from nearby mountains traveling under the contaminated plant before flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

The International Atomic Energy Agency recently said Tepco has made “significant progress” in cleaning up the plant, but suggested that Japan should consider ways to discharge treated wastewater into the sea as a relatively safer way to deal with the radioactive water crisis.

Since the drainage ditches are connected to the port of the No. 1 plant, the NRA has instructed Tepco to shut the gates there, officials said.

Tepco confirmed that no leaks from tanks containing radioactive water were found, but said it was investing further.

  • Leslie Corrice

    The are more than 60 Beta-emitting isotopes in the F. Daiichi wastewaters. You make it seem as if Sr-90 is the only one causing the spike. It is grossly misleading and needs to be corrected.

  • Vivienne Perkins

    The fact is that the accident at Fukushima-daiichi represents the gravestone to the human enterprise on this planet. Like Chernobyl, it will never be cleaned up. Every government with nuclear reactors or weapons lies about their safety; I’ve lived through the entire nuclear era and have heard all of them. Whether or not we want to face up to the facts, we have poisoned our planet (radioactive fallout, highly contaminated weapons mfg. sites like Hanford, Savannah River and the rest, emissions from power reactors, detonating H-bombs in the Van Allen radiation belt, mountains of r/a waste and spent fuel rods no one knows how to dispose of–and which won’t be disposed of). We also know very little about the health consequences of radioactive exposures for the simple reason that our govt. took care not to keep adequate records. We might as well give up the fatuous notion that human beings are capable of reason; anyone who knew the facts and could use his brain would know that we must abolish them utterly. They are now in the inexorable process of abolishing us.

    • sintex

      that’s why we are all dead now! Chernobyl has 16 foot 2000lbs wolves, 10lbs blue jays with teeth and slugs the size of a small car! soon Godzilla will rise from the depths of the ocean and wipe out Japan! it’s all over, we are doomed!

      • Vivienne Perkins

        I presume you’re a smartass. Do you know the meaning of the word “inexorable”? No, well look it up. You might also ask your good twin, if you have one, why what the present generation of human beings wants to do is more important than leaving a viable and healthy planet for our descendants. Nuclear energy is the most dangerous form of energy ever invented and will end by destroying us if the US penchant for waging unnecessary wars all over the world doesn’t get us there first.

      • sintex

        carbon emissions are far worse! would you suggest we do away with ALL forms of energy and go back to the “hunter gatherer” days? because that is our only choice! millions would die, your ignorant of actual facts and your paranoid conspiracy laden personality is astonishing!

      • Vivienne Perkins

        You have nothing to say about all the facts that I cite above. An ad hominem attack (that I have a conspiracy-laden personality) goes nowhere. It just shows you have no rational point to make. I have personally lived through the nuclear insanity, done the research, worked on cleaning up Rocky Flats NW site, and am aware that human beings are supremely resistant to making changes in their lifestyles that we really could make. There is no easy fix for global warming, but the Germans have determined to give up nuclear energy and they are managing it, so we know it can be done.

    • Enkidu

      Hi Vivienne, Although Fukushima is an unprecedented environmental disaster for Japan, it is most certainly not “the gravestone to the human enterprise on this planet”. The only environmental menace that has even a remote possibility of that is climate change and, ironically enough, we in Japan are now contributing much more to that threat post 3/11. As for the clean-up, there is no reason to believe that the site can’t be contained and possible effects on human health minimized. This will certainly take time and immense effort–much of which has already been done, and much of which remains. Also, I can’t say that I agree with you that “we also know very little about the health consequences of radioactive exposures”. Compared to most of the pollutants out there, we actually understand the health impacts of radiation quite well, due in no small part to the fact that our hospitals use it on patients, both externally and internally, every single day. What little debate is out there focuses on the impact of radiation at very low levels, and there the issue is whether there is very little impact or no impact at all, something radiation shares with most other pollutants. LNT isn’t exclusive to radiation, you know. In any event, I’m glad you have taken a hand in cleaning up the Rocky Flats site. If more people had such an experience, our environment would be better for it.

      • Vivienne Perkins

        I appreciate your response Enkidu, but I stick to what I said above. The steady lying and downplaying of the risks of all things nuclear has propagandized the public into virtual insensibility. As a case in point, the WHO and the IAEA have had a long-term policy of not releasing any worrisome information to the public without each other’s consent. The WHO, as you know, is the World Health Organization. Why should it be in bed with the nuclear industry? In my view, it should not. As I said somewhere else, nuclear energy/weapons has divided itself into the world of the true believers (it will solve all problems) and the skeptics. The flow of contaminated water going into the Pacific each day is a bit like the oceans’ forty dead zones, filled with our industrial wastes. Cumulative effects eventually add up. Plus, I don’t think either Japan or the world has enough money or expertise to clean up Fuk-daiichi. We think we’re technologically smart enough to handle these dangerous activities. I don’t agree. How many millions are now being spent redoing the WIPP site in N.M. because some idiot used cat litter as a packing material? As for gl. warming; there are other solutions but while we’re claiming nuclear power is the only one, we are, in general, not looking for other kinds of change.

      • Enkidu

        Hi Vivienne,

        I’m curious about your assertion that the WHO can’t release information without the IAEA’s consent. I’m aware of a conspiracy theory to that effect, but it’s hard to swallow when there is a publicly available agreement between the WHO and IAEA that says exactly the opposite. (Links to follow.)

        As for the current releases into the ocean, they should be stopped as soon as possible, but it is important to keep in mind that they are orders of magnitude lower than the initial releases and do not seem to be having a significant effect on the waters of the Pacific. If you have information otherwise, please let me know.

        As for not having enough money or expertise to clean up Daiichi, maybe you could let me know why you think that so I could try to address it? I don’t see anything that would be insurmountable, especially in a country that loves to lavish public funds on construction companies.

        As for nuclear power being “the only” solution for global warming, can you let me know who is saying that? It doesn’t make sense.

      • Vivienne Perkins

        Who is now monitoring the waters of the Pacific and where are their findings being publicized that would assure me that what is flowing out from f-d is not having a “significant effect.” After every accident, the govt. propaganda is that there are no health effects. I do not believe this.
        On the money issue, is not the J economy depressed and has it not been depressed for many years now? I cannot believe Tepco can afford this cleanup, so the J. government must be paying. How much has been spent so far? I doubt that anyone has reliable estimates of what will be spent in the next 40 odd years.
        On the expertise issue, we know nothing about dealing with 3 melted reactors. At Chernobyl, no one knows either, which is why they recently built a concrete sarcophagus over the original meltdown.. That is not a cleanup, and F-d will never be cleaned up. If you have authoritative links that prove the WHO and IAEA do not have the long-standing agreement I read that they have, I’d be interested in seeing them. I have lived through the entire nuclear age and have heard all the bullshit about “ultimate weapons” and “energy too cheap to meter.” The amount of lying and pro-nuclear propaganda issued is enormous. Over the long run, no matter what kind of justification we want to offer up to whatever historians may survive us, we do not have the right, ethically, to leave this terrible legacy of accidents, contaminated sites, spent fuel rods, and other types of r/a waste to our descendants into the farthest future we can think about or anticipate. No other human civilization has reached this level of greed, selfishness, and rank stupidity. In my view, if the J people were not as passive and obedient as they are, they would be demanding extensive changes in J. policy.

      • Enkidu

        Hi Vivienne,

        I believe the links about the WHO-IAEA are now posted. Apologies for the delay, but the Japan Times generally reviews any posts with external links before publishing them, which is why I submitted them through a second post.

        As for who is now monitoring the waters in the Pacific, there are a variety of institutions, including TEPCO and the Ministry of the Environment, but also independent researchers like Ken Buessler and Michio Aoyama (both of whom are doing good work on this issue). So far the results from the independent researchers is consistent with those from TEPCO and the government, which is a good sign.

        As for paying for the clean-up, you’re absolutely right that TEPCO doesn’t have the money and that therefore the taxpayers are on the hook. I also agree with you that a reliable estimate for a 40-year project is going to be very difficult to come by. However, when you compare any of the reasonable estimates out there (ranging from the tens to even hundreds of billions USD over the lifespan of the project) to the yearly expenditures of the Japanese government (on the order of 2 trillion USD per year), it amounts to no more than a drop in the bucket. One that I, as a Japanese taxpayer, would rather not pay, mind you, but still a drop in the bucket.

        As for the clean-up, we have dealt with a melted reactor before, at Three Mile Island. The fact that there are three reactors doesn’t really matter from a complexity standpoint. Now, this isn’t to belittle the clean-up process, which will be a long, arduous slog with more than its fair share of novel problems and, no doubt, some failures along the way, but again, I see nothing insurmountable here.

        As for various claims about nuclear technology, it seems to me that the ones you have quoted would be easily refutable.

      • Enkidu

        Here’s a link to the agreement:

        And here’s a link to a statement from the WHO refuting the conspiracy theory:

  • boonteetan

    Almost 4 years after the explosion, Fukushima is still deadly as ever. This terribly ugly episode of nuclear reactor disaster should remind people that even in a highly advanced technology country like Japan, there is no guarantee of safe reactors.

  • pete0097

    I assume that you have a very nice cave (with geothermal heat), eat your food both fresh and un-cooked. Don’t wear anything that was made from petrochemicals and walk or ride a bike to get around. If not, you may be a hypocrit.

    • vlady47

      Pete, you are ridiculous!
      Obviously you have nothing to offer to the conversation.

  • vlady47

    NRC Magwood:
    It is very difficult to overstate how difficult the work is going to be at that site. There will need to be new technologies and new methodologies created to be able to enable them to clean the site up and some of these technologies don’t exist yet, so there’s a long way to go with that …. There’s a long, long way to go.

  • Enkidu

    Hi vlady,

    The article you linked to has nothing to do with Fukushima. Maybe you could tell us which “lessons learned from Chernobyl prove [Fukushima] can’t be clean [sic] up”?

    Also, Tim Mousseau, who is highly quoted in the article, is a crank. For example, this statement, from near the end of the article is profoundly stupid: “There will be areas that will be contaminated for thousands, if not millions, of years.” This is meaningless. Those areas were “contaminated” before the accident at Chernobyl, and they will be “contaminated” forever regardless of whether the accident ever happened. Any person with even a basic understanding of environmental health understands that.

    • vlady47

      The point being the area around Chernobyl is still dangerous/toxic and will be for a very long time.
      Fukushima is dealing with 3 melted cores.
      Do you not understand the gravity of the situation?

      • Enkidu

        Hi vlady, I’ve worked on the clean-up of CERCLA sites in the US, dealing with all sorts of contamination issues, so I believe I have some sense of what it will take. Maybe you could explain “the gravity of the situation” from a human health standpoint? I know that “three melted cores” may sound scary, but you need to take things to the next step and describe the risks resulting from those three melted cores. Then maybe we can have a good discussion about how we can minimize those risks and protect people and the environment.

      • vlady47

        When it comes to coriums…If the experts don’t have solutions, what makes you think a conversation between us will result in anything.
        You want to down play the situation by saying you’ve worked at CERCLA sites…you know like I know what comes into play and it’s called ALARA.
        The land can not be return to it’s previous state.
        The only safe nuke is one that is never built.

      • Enkidu

        If you’re definition of “clean-up” is returning the land to its previous state, then I can tell you without reservation that the “clean-up” is impossible. I would say, however, that this is not what clean-up means to anyone involved in environmental remediation. All of the CERCLA sites that I worked on are still undeniably there, but have been remediated in a way to minimize risk to human life. Once you’ve had a mess that significant, going back to its “previous state” is just not possible. If you’re going to stick on that point, then there’s nothing for us to discuss. However, if you’d like to discuss what we can do at Fukushima to reduce risk and improve human health, then I’m happy to do so.

      • vlady47

        The experts are already doing what they can on the site. Hopefully people, specially children are living far enough away from the destroyed facility and I hope they are doing sufficient testing on the food they consume.