New Leaks Found, Ocean Contamination Confirmed At Fukushima

Tankleak_aug21_2013_smTwo new tank leaks have been found at Fukushima Daiichi in another group of tanks. High radiation levels were found at the base of these two tanks indicating some form of leak. No nearby puddles were found to be releasing high levels of radiation. It is also suspected that the larger leak found earlier in the week may be leaking for the same location in the base of the tank.

All of the tanks involved hold highly radioactive liquid sludge from the reverse osmosis system used to try to clean water used at the plant. It was also admitted by TEPCO that the original leak has likely made it to the ocean. Levels found at the drainage canal opening to the sea were not extremely high. This may not be a complete indicator regarding the leak and route to the sea.

The sets of tanks now found to be leaking are upstream of the groundwater bypass system TEPCO installed and still wants to use. These wells have shown both cesium and tritium on previous sample testing. Whatever of the tank leaks that filters down to groundwater could eventually be found in the bypass wells, rendering them even more useless.

The worldwide media has been in a frenzy for the last two days over the tank leaks. Many times confusing them with the ongoing leaks from the plant that were finally admitted in the last month. The widespread leaking at the plant is likely far worse than admitted and has been going on since 2011. The new tank leaks add to this problem as they contain highly radioactive waste water and sit on either side of an open drainage canal to the sea. TEPCO has not seen fit to block off this drainage canal or otherwise prevent contaminated water from leaving the plant through it. This does all present a great challenge. Without a way to allow surface water to leave the plant it would become saturated. Yet leaving the drainage canal and simlar structures open to the sea allows contaminated water to leak into the Pacific.

draining_as_Aug2013

If the tanks begin to fail in large numbers through corrosion or potential damage from an earthquake it could result in a massive release of highly radioactive sludge water to the sea. These round tanks have been TEPCO’s main and only plan for dealing with contaminated water at the plant. A brief attempt to create holding ponds was failed due to shoddy materials and corner cutting on the construction. That water also ended up in the round bolt together tanks. TEPCO currently has no alternative location for all this contaminated water.

Images: TEPCO, Asahi Shimbun

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