Even Murdoch reports New Fukushima Emergency. bucking for Pulitzer for being 2 yrs late

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/world/fukushima-nuclear-power-plant-poses-new-threat-to-pacific-ocean/story-fnb64oi6-1226692014141

Fukushima nuclear power plant poses new threat to Pacific Ocean

by: Leo Lewis
From: The Times
August 06, 2013 11:56AM

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JAPAN’S nuclear watchdog has warned of a new emergency at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, confirming that highly radioactive water had reached the sea and was posing a threat to life.

Shinji Kinjo, head of a special taskforce within the country’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, said that contaminated groundwater had breached an underground barrier, was rising towards the surface and exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge.

He also warned that the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), could not cope. Tepco’s “sense of crisis is weak”, Mr Kinjo said. “This is why you can’t just leave it up to Tepco alone. Right now, we have an emergency.”

Tepco has denied for months that contaminated water had been reaching the ocean, but it admitted last Friday that this was not true. An estimated 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium may have left the Fukushima reactors and flowed into the Pacific since May 2011, the company said. The release, Tepco added, was at a level allowed under Japanese safety regulations but had not taken place “in a controlled way”.

Tepco has denied for months that contaminated water had been reaching the ocean, but it admitted last Friday that this was not true. An estimated 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium may have left the Fukushima reactors and flowed into the Pacific since May 2011, the company said. The release, Tepco added, was at a level allowed under Japanese safety regulations but had not taken place “in a controlled way”.

Vast quantities of radioactive water have also been accumulating under and within the plant as Tepco continues to pump tonnes of water into reactors that suffered core meltdowns after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

With the contaminated groundwater levels rising rapidly, scientists have speculated on what will happen when the deadly pollutant reaches the surface. Mr Kinjo said that the radioactive water would “flow extremely fast” to the sea. Tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, meaning that the contaminated water will lose half its radioactivity in that time.

Tepco has been castigated for failing to prepare for the tsunami and earthquake that devastated its Fukushima plant. It drew further criticism for its inept response to the reactor meltdowns. The Japanese Government allowed Tepco to dump tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific – a measure that was condemned by neighbouring countries and local fishermen. The company has since promised that it would not dump irradiated water without the consent of local towns.

It remains unclear how much of a threat the contaminated groundwater poses. “Until we know the exact density and volume of the water that’s flowing out, I can’t speculate on the impact on the sea,” Mitsuo Uematsu, of the Centre for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo, said. “We also should check what the levels are like in the sea. If it’s only inside the port and it’s not flowing out into the sea, it may not spread as widely as some fear.”

Tepco said that it was taking various measures to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the bay near the plant. A spokesman said that the company deeply apologised to residents in Fukushima prefecture, the surrounding region and the larger public for causing “inconveniences, worries and trouble”.

The company pumps out about 400 tonnes a day of groundwater that flows from the hills above the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the basements of the destroyed buildings, which mixes with highly irradiated water that is being used to cool the reactors into a stable state below 100C. end quote.

Very stable Rupert.


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