Fukushima’s hundreds of tanks of radioactive water, and the problem of leaks

Radioactive Leaks in Japan Prompt Call for Overseas Help, Bloomberg, By Yuji Okada, Jacob Adelman & Peter Langan – Aug 21, 2013  

“……..Toxic Sludge. Tepco was storing 330,000 tons of radioactive water as of Aug. 13 in tanks covering an area equal to 37 football fields, according to the company. The utility is clearing forest to make room for more tanks as it adds to the stored water at a rate of 400 tons a day after pumping it out from under the plant’s reactors, which melted down as a result of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The water is treated to remove some of the cesium particles before it is stored, which has left 480 filters clogged with the radioactive material at the site. Each weigh 15 tons and are warehoused in what the utility calls temporary storage, though it will take hundreds of years for the radiation to decay. Other radioactive contaminants remain in the water even after treatment. That includes strontium, which has been linked to bone cancers.

Besides radiated water, the site north of Tokyo has more than 73,000 cubic meters of contaminated concrete, 58,000 cubic meters of irradiated trees and undergrowth, and 157,710 gallons of toxic sludge, according to the utility.

’Biggest Concern’

Japan’s nuclear watchdog has ratcheted up alarm over the potential for more leaks of highly radioactive water from the hundreds of storage tanks at the Fukushima atomic plant.

The possibility of leaks from other tanks “is the biggest concern,” said Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka at a press conference yesterday. “This will need to be handled carefully on the assumption that one incident could bring another.”

Late last night, Tepco said water leaking from the storage tank probably ran into the ocean, citing high radiation readings in a drainage ditch.

As much as 20 trillion becquerels of cesium and 10 trillion becquerels of strontium leaked into the ocean since May 2011, Tepco spokeswoman Mayumi Yoshida said today. The total amount of cesium and strontium is equivalent to about 100 times the annual limit on radiation from the plant to the ocean under normal conditions, according to calculations based on Tepco data……….

Leaking Tanks

Japan’s government has ordered an investigation into the safety of hundreds of other tanks storing contaminated water in Fukushima, the site of the world’s worst civilian nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl reactor exploded in 1986.

There are 226 tanks of similar bolted design to the leaking unit with the same 1,000-ton capacity at the site, said Tatsuya Shinkawa, director of the nuclear accident response office in the government’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which called for the probe…… http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-21/tepco-shares-plunge-on-report-of-serious-radiated-water-leak.html

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