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Typhoon causes even more radioactive water to flow into Pacific Ocean at crippled Fukushima plant


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(NaturalNews) Heavy rains from Typhoon Nangka caused radioactive water and soil to flow from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and into the Pacific Ocean, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has admitted.

The Fukushima plant has been shuttered since three of its reactors melted down following a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Since then, TEPCO has struggled to contain the constant flow of rainwater into the plant's flooded basements, where the water comes in contact with the reactor cores and becomes radioactive. The company has tried everything from pumping and storing the radioactive water (to keep it from building up so much that it spills back into the groundwater) to building an "ice wall" to stem the flow, but radioactive water continues to spill into the ocean.

Heavy rains overwhelm TEPCO pumps

On July 16, TEPCO announced that heavy rains from the approaching typhoon had filled up and overflowed a drainage channel containing radioactive water, causing that water to wash into the sea. Two hours later, samples taken in the channel detected 830 becquerels per liter worth of radioactive cesium and 1,100 becquerels per liter worth of beta-ray emitting radioactive elements. TEPCO also said that it suspected that the rains had washed away radioactive soil and mud from the closure area around the plant, also conveying this radioactive material to the ocean.

The problem, according to TEPCO, was that the massive inflow of water - more than 77 mm (3 inches) per hour in parts of Fukushima prefecture - exceeded the capacity of the plant's water pumps.

The slow-moving storm made landfall in Japan late on July 16, bringing heavy rains and leading to the deaths of at least two people. One person fell while attempting to cover up windows against the storm, while another fell from a cliff while attempting to watch the floodwaters below. A third person was swept away by a flooded canal and is still missing.

Dozens were also injured by the storm, including a 16-year-old who suffered a broken foot when a soccer goalpost blew into him.

On July 18, the storm dissipated over the Sea of Japan.

Worse disasters waiting to happen

As alarming as the release of more radioactive material is, the results of the typhoon could have been far worse. By the time it made landfall, Nangka was only the equivalent of a Category 1 tropical cyclone, with maximum sustained winds of 75 mph. But earlier that day, the storm was a super typhoon, with sustained winds of 150 mph. The government recommended the evacuation more than 450,000 people due to fear of landslides, and 88,000 were ordered to evacuated. More than 120 domestic airline flights were canceled, along with all train service in the affected regions. Many of the highways west of Tokyo were closed due to heavy rains and dangerously high surf.

What could have happened if a storm of that strength had slammed into the Fukushima plant, which still contains melted-down reactor cores so radioactive that they would cause instant death to anyone who comes near them, even in the most technologically advanced protective gear?

These concerns have been raised repeatedly by critics of the nuclear industry, who warn that the Fukushima disaster is far from over, whatever TEPCO and the Japanese government might claim.

"Both the damaged nuclear reactors and the spent fuel ponds contain vast amounts of radioactivity and are highly vulnerable to further earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and human error," wrote the German affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in July 2014.

"Catastrophic releases of radioactivity could occur at any time and eliminating this risk will take many decades."

Sources for this article include:

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150717_01.html

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150717_09.html

http://www.japantimes.co.jp

http://www.weather.com

http://www.weather.com/news/news/typhoon-nangka-japan-impacts

http://www.counterpunch.org

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