Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has admitted, despite earlier obfuscations, that it can no longer contain radioactive waste from the troubled Fukushima nuclear power plant. Radioactive water is seeping into the ocean and providers and regulators can only come up with temporary solutions to the contamination problem.
Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an “emergency” that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country’s nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.
This is yet another mark against Tepco’s and the Japanese government’s secretive practices. The Japanese government’s and Tepco’s refusal to brief their partners, notably the United States, during the Fukushima nuclear crisis contributed to the failure of the plant, and since then the government has played misdirection games with journalists and concerned citizens seeking more information.
It was not immediately clear how much of a threat the contaminated groundwater could pose. In the early weeks of the disaster, the Japanese government allowed Tepco to dump tens of thousands of metric tons of contaminated water into the Pacific in an emergency move. The toxic water release was however heavily criticized by neighboring countries as well as local fishermen and the utility has since promised it would not dump irradiated water without the consent of local townships.
“Until we know the exact density and volume of the water that’s flowing out, I honestly can’t speculate on the impact on the sea,” said Mitsuo Uematsu from the Center for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo.
So now that the contaminated water has breached the barrier will Tepco finally come clean on the situation in Fukushima? Or should the world go back to taking Tepco’s word that everything is being handled without incident? What could possibly go wrong?