National

Low-level radioactive waste stored at Tokai research facility near Tokyo may leak, agency says

Kyodo

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that some of the low-level radioactive waste stored underground at a facility near Tokyo may leak from its containers due to inadequate disposal procedures.

The government-backed agency keeps 53,000 drums of low-level radioactive waste, or about 10,600 kiloliters, in a concrete pit in the basement of a building of the Nuclear Research and Science Institute in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.

Some of the waste did not undergo the proper water removal process when placed in the pit, and leakage and corroded containers in the pit were found during inspections between 1987 and 1991, according to the agency.

The nuclear research body planned to inspect the drums over the next 50 years to check for leakage. But the Nuclear Regulation Authority said at a meeting Wednesday that the agency needs to check them more quickly.

The agency should inspect all the drums within five years, Shinsuke Yamanaka, an NRA commissioner, said at the meeting.

The agency currently inspects the drums visually once a year but will now begin to lift and check them individually.

According to the agency and the NRA, the low-level radioactive waste is placed at the facility, built sometime from around 1964 to 1976, for disposal.

The agency said it did not properly conduct the process of removing water and other materials in some cases during the 1960s.