Tokyo Electric starts dumping radioactive water into Pacific

Other News Materials 5 April 2011 06:10 (UTC +04:00)

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), operator of the stricken nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan, started releasing low-level radioactive wastewater into the Pacific Ocean to make room for even more contaminated water now leaking into the sea, dpa reported.

News reports Tuesday said that a total of 11,500 tons of wastewater containing low-level radioactivity - about 100 times the legal limit - would be released.

TEPCO has been dumping the water to clear out a storage chamber it needs for even more dangerous water now leaking from a tunnel and the basement of a turbine building adjacent to reactor number 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

TEPCO has been unable to plug the leak despite days of effort.

The six-reactor plant was crippled by the March 11 magnitude-9 earthquake and mammoth tsunami.

The highly contaminated water - used to cool down overheating reactors and spent-fuel pools - has hindered efforts to restore key functions at the plant.

TEPCO has deployed chemical polymers to plug the more threatening leak, but on Monday, they had yet to absorb the water. The 20- centimetre crack is in a pit where cables are stored near reactor number 2.

The government's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency authorized the dumping of the lesser contaminated water as an emergency measure and said the disposal would pose "no major health risk." The agency said it would reinforce its monitoring of any adverse effects on the seawater.

The government warned that it could take several months to get the leak under control. Workers have begun putting dye in the water to find the location of other possible leaks at the plant.

Meanwhile, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Yukiya Amano said overnight that the Fukushima accident poses a major challenge for the nuclear energy sector, especially in terms of public opinion.

"Whether this can be prevented in the future? I believe there are certain ways to avoid the repetition of such accidents," the IAEA director general told reporters on the first day of a regular review conference on the Convention on Nuclear Safety in Vienna.

"Thinking retrospectively, the measures taken by TEPCO were not sufficient to prevent this accident," he said.

Amano's statement marked a shift from his initial reaction after the March 11 disaster, when he said that unprecedented natural forces were to blame for the situation at Fukushima.