Radiation in water leakage at Fukushima plant as high as 2011 crisis – ‘If you ask whether we have adequately learned the lessons of the disaster, the answer would be that we haven’t’Posted by Jim at Saturday, July 27, 2013
TOKYO, 27 July 2013 (Kyodo) – Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday it has detected 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter from water in an underground passage at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that is seeping into the sea, roughly the same level as seen in a contaminated water leak into the sea in April 2011 shortly after the nuclear disaster the preceding month.
The water sample taken Friday from a trench contained 750 million becquerels of cesium-134 and 1.6 billion becquerels of cesium-137 per liter, while 750 million becquerels of other radioactive substances were detected, according to TEPCO.
The trench, which is believed to be the source of the latest water leakage into the sea, is located below the No. 2 reactor turbine building.
(The Wall Street Journal) -- Fukushima watchers may be forgiven for feeling a sense of déjà vu, after the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said that radioactive water could be leaking into the ocean. After all, anyone who’s been following the state of the plant since the terrible nuclear accident in March 2011 knows Tokyo Electric Power Co. has said many times before that leaks from buildings or trenches may have spilled contaminated water into the sea.
So what’s the difference between what Tepco is reporting now, and all those other leaks and spills readers may remember from the past? This time, for the first time, the company doesn’t yet know where the water is coming from.
That lack of a precise source of contamination, plus data showing a probable connection between groundwater and seawater in that area, is prompting Tepco to say for the first time that the radioactive water may be seeping directly out of the ground near the ocean.
First a bit of background to put the problems in perspective:
The current investigations started in May, when Tepco found that levels of the radioactive element tritium in test wells near the ocean had climbed 17 times higher than they were in December. That prompted the drilling of more wells and more tests. By early July, Tepco’s surveyers were finding levels of tritium as well as radioactive cesium rising at a very fast clip.
On July 5, tritium levels in the groundwater near the plant were found to be 600,000 becquerels per liter, a level 20% higher than that found in the area in May, and 10 times the legal limit. A becquerel is a measure of how much radioactive energy is released per second. A few days later, on July 9, cesium 137 levels were found to be 22,000 becquerels per liter, up 22% from a day earlier. The legal limit is 90 becquerels per liter.
The findings led Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority to raise concerns on July 10 that the radioactive water could be flowing into the Pacific, although at the time Tepco said there was no evidence of that.
But on Monday, Tepco said that data it collected showed the levels of the water in its test wells was rising and falling along with sea-water levels, according to the tides. That led the company to conclude that there could indeed be a link between the groundwater at the coastal side of the plant where the wells are, and sea water. [more]
By HIROKO TABUCHI
26 July 2013
TOKYO (The New York Times) – Foreign nuclear experts harshly criticized the operator of the devastated nuclear power plant at Fukushima on Friday for its delay in disclosing that highly contaminated groundwater has been leaking from the site into the ocean.
The operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, announced the leaks on Monday, but only after denying for weeks that radioactive water was flowing into the Pacific. The lack of transparency has renewed frustration among a public still angry at Tepco for repeatedly underplaying the dangers posed by the plant after the triple meltdown there in 2011.
“This poor communication program gives the impression of a lack of an effective decision-making process, a lack of ability of keeping the people of Japan informed, and it brings into question whether Tepco has a plan and is doing all it can to protect the environment and the people,” said Dale Klein, a nuclear expert who heads a committee hired by the utility to recommend changes in its corporate culture.
The rebukes came as the company acknowledged that a reactor at the plant was again releasing radioactive steam, and said it still did not know the cause. The company first announced last week that it had spotted steam, but then said the release had stopped. Experts have said it is unlikely that the nuclear fuel is experiencing renewed fission, considered the worst-case scenario. But the release is still thought to be worrisome because it is venting radioactive materials into the air. Tepco has said the steam is not highly contaminated.
Despite Mr. Klein’s criticism, he said Tepco was working hard to clean up the plant. He also said he did not believe it had deliberately covered up problems with the groundwater, though reporters have been regularly asking the utility for more information.
“From what we’ve seen, it’s more of what I’d call incompetence rather than a cover-up,” Mr. Klein said at a news conference in Tokyo after meetings with Tepco executives. He is a former chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
Lady Barbara Judge, the former chairwoman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority who also sits on Tepco’s committee, was more blunt.
“I have personally been discussing with people in Japan and outside the fact that Tepco is on a journey of being reborn as a nuclear operator,” she said. “And to find that the communication with respect to the water problem had been so difficult and so late was devastating.”
For weeks, Tepco officials had emphasized that groundwater containing high concentrations of radioactive tritium, strontium and cesium discovered in observation wells at the plant last month did not pose a threat to the nearby Pacific. The utility held its ground even after Japan’s nuclear safety chief said last week that the plant had most likely been leaking contaminated water, probably since the disaster more than two years ago.
On Monday, Tepco finally disclosed that there was a leak. It also released evidence showing that the water in the wells along the shoreline was rising and falling with the tide, indicating that there was no barrier between the wells and the ocean. The company said that different sections had been in charge of varying aspects of the data and that officials had not made the connection earlier.
Disclosure was also delayed while Tepco raced to first inform fishermen of the leak, said the utility’s president, Naomi Hirose, who was not in charge during the disaster.
“It’s an extreme shame,” Mr. Hirose said Friday. “I’m filled with deep regret. We had the data but were unable to put it to use.”
“Rather than be proactive in informing the public of potential risks, we became too fearful and concerned over the effect such a major announcement would have,” he said.
He added, “If you asked whether we have adequately learned the lessons of the disaster, the answer would be that we haven’t.” [more]