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The Fukushima Nuclear Plant Is Leaking, Again

Despite efforts to contain the current leak, around 80,000 gallons of water has managed to escape so far and the problem seems to be getting worse, not better

Earlier this week, authorities found highly radioactive water leaking into the environment from a storage tank at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. The BBC reports:

A puddle of the contaminated water was emitting 100 millisieverts an hour of radiation, Kyodo news agency said earlier this week.

Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tepco, told Reuters news agency: “One hundred millisieverts per hour is equivalent to the limit for accumulated exposure over five years for nuclear workers; so it can be said that we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour.”

Japan has declared a level-three “serious incident” situation. Two years ago, at the height of the plant’s meltdown, Fukushima was a level seven. This is the highest warning issued since then, Discover News reports.

How long the leak has been going on? What is the extent of the contamination? Here’s the Guardian:

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said it did not know how the water leaked out or where it had leaked to, but it believed that the spillage had not flowed into the Pacific ocean.

This new leak, though, follows news that contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean—possibly since 2011, the Guardian says*:

The environment ministry recently announcement that 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater from Fukushima Daiichi is still seeping over or around barriers into the Pacific every day….Government officials said they could not rule out the possibility that the site had been leaking radioactive matter since the plant suffered a triple meltdown on 11 March 2011.

On top of this latest emergency, Tepco announced earlier this month that contaminated groundwater continues to be a problem. Here’s the Guardian again:

The environment ministry recently announcement that 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater from Fukushima Daiichi is still seeping over or around barriers into the Pacific every day, more than two years after it was struck by a tsunami in March 2011. Government officials said they suspected the leaks had started soon after the accident, which resulted in a nuclear meltdown.

The ongoing leaks have been devastating for local fishing communities. Prior to the nuclear meltdown, fishermen caught around 19,000 tons of seafood annually. Now, CBS News reports, that number has dropped to just 300, since only 16 types of fish—compared to 150 previously—turn up low enough levels of contaminants to be deemed safe to eat.

Despite efforts to contain the current leak—including sucking up the problematic water and digging up the contaminated soil—around 80,000 gallons of water has managed to escape so far, and authorities admit that the problem has gotten worse rather than better since its discovery two days ago, the Guardian writes.
*Updated for clarity.

More from Smithsonian.com:

27 Years Later, Radiation Still Hides Out in Chernobyl’s Trees (Fukushima’s, Too)
The Health Effects of Fukushima’s Radiation Weren’t So Bad 

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