(NaturalNews) Emergency cooling measures used in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster have led to the corrosion of a pipe that is now leaking radioactive water and preventing further cleanup of the site, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced in May.
In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northern Japan. In addition to releasing a radioactive plume into the air that has contaminated an area larger than Hong Kong and spread fallout as far away as the United States, the disaster so heavily crippled and contaminated the plant that the destroyed reactors have yet to be successfully decommissioned.
In November 2013, TEPCO discovered that 3.2 tons per hour of radioactive water were leaking from the primary containment vessel inside the No. 1 reactor building. The containment vessels are used to hold water rendered radioactive after being used to cool the nuclear reactors. The accumulation of this water in the basement of the building made the environment too dangerous for workers to enter the area and remove the melted, radioactive fuel rods from the reactor.
Radioactive water has also been leaking into the ground, spreading radioactivity away from the plant and actually leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
Leak caused by initial TEPCO reaction
In May, an investigation via remote-controlled robot revealed the source of the No. 1 reactor leak: a joint in a pipe attached to the primary containment vessel. TEPCO believes that the pipe was probably corroded by seawater that was funneled past the reactor in an emergency attempt to cool it while the initial meltdown was in progress. The company denies that the damage could have been caused by the initial earthquake.
TEPCO is still investigating to see whether any other leaks exist in the facility. Due to safety risks to workers, all leaks need to be identified and plugged before plans to fully decommission the reactors and remove the melted fuel rods can proceed.
Water is still being continually pumped past the failed reactors in order to keep them from overheating and restarting the nuclear reactions. This water, newly radioactive, is then funneled into temporary storage tanks. There are currently more than 1,000 temporary tanks at the facility, storing an estimated 480,000 tons of radioactive water. These tanks have repeatedly been documented as leaking, contaminating the area with further radiation.
In addition, rainwater and groundwater are seeping into the basement of the reactor buildings, mixing with the cooling water and causing the containment vessels to overflow even further.
Dumping Radiation Directly Into the Ocean
In order to siphon off the rapidly accumulating radioactive water, TEPCO has begun deliberately releasing it into the Pacific Ocean, several hundred tons at a time. The company has claimed that the radiation levels in this water are too low to pose a threat to ocean life or public health. Yet, shortly after the controlled releases began, a TEPCO tests revealed that water at one of the Fukushima wells was too radioactive to be dumped into the ocean. The test detected 1,700 becquerels of tritium per liter of water, surpassing the maximum allowed amount of 1,500 becquerels per liter. A sample taken in May also exceeded the limit.
Meanwhile, the company is proceeding with plans to freeze the ground surrounding the reactors in order to prevent any more water from infiltrating the plant. Workers have already begun excavation to bury a network of pipes that will have minus 30-degree brine pumped through them round the clock.
Environmentalists and the media have criticized this "ice wall" plan as an expensive, unproven plan that is likely to fail.