Radioactive groundwater leaching from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power station is about to reach the Pacific Ocean, spawning a new crisis over the crippled reactor, the Christian Science Monitor reported on Aug. 24.
Radioactive groundwater from the nuclear plant was quickly stored in steel tanks after the reactor’s triple meltdown in March 2011 following an earthquake. But the tanks are leaking and a massive reservoir of radioactive groundwater deep beneath the power plant that has been creeping toward the ocean for two years is now threatening a new disaster.
While it’s not clear what the environmental impact will be as the radioactive groundwater continues to leach out and move toward the ocean, authorities are worried about the implications as efforts to contain the radioactive groundwater appear to be failing.
Earlier this week, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, reported that one of the steel storage tanks holding the radioactive groundwater had failed, leaking 300 tons of highly radioactive water.
The leak of this radioactive groundwater is the fifth and most serious from a tank since the March 2011 disaster, when three of the plant's reactors melted down after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant's power and cooling functions, ABC News reported.
With too much radioactive groundwater to contain and leaks in existing storage tanks, it’s not clear how Japan will attempt to control the possible disaster.
It’s possible that Japan will have to deliberately dump some of the contaminated groundwater into the ocean, where some authorities say the impact could be at least somewhat lessened as the water is diluted.
"Think about it in simple terms. If you don't release the water, there's nowhere to store it. So we also think it may have to be released," Shinichi Nakayama, deputy director of the Nuclear Safety Research Center at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and a member of a regulatory panel on Fukushima's problems, said in the Christian Science Monitor.
But critics say that the radioactive groundwater problem at Fukushima underscores beliefs that TEPCO has repeatedly failed to acknowledge problems that it could almost certainly have foreseen — and taken action to mitigate before they got out of control.