Despite assurances to the contrary by Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant operator TEPCO and the Japanese government, it has been announced that radioactive water stored at the plant is up to 20,000 times the limit considered safe for release into the ocean.
TEPCO announced Friday that studies had found the water still contains harmful radionuclides such as radioactive iodine, cesium and strontium. Previously the utility had stated that the water had been stripped of all elements except tritium, which is claimed to be relatively “harmless” in small doses.
Now it has been confirmed that in fact more than 80 percent of the 940,000 tons of water being stored within the grounds of the plant has radioactive levels that exceed acceptable safe limits for release into the Pacific — a move that had previously been approved by the government, despite protests from local fishermen.
That amounts to around 752,000 tons, of which more than 160,000 tons has up to 100 times the limit for release into the environment, according to TEPCO. A further 65,000 tons contains levels of 600,000 becquerels of radioactive contamination -- or nearly 20,000 times the officially accepted safe limit, the utility added.
The utility claimed that the issue was a result of complications in 2013 with the ALPS cleaning system being employed to strip the highly contaminated water of more than 60 harmful radionuclides -- excluding tritium, which cannot be removed.
In order assuage the concerns of an increasingly sceptical public, TEPCO has vowed to ensure the water is treated further to attain safe levels for release into the environment.
Meanwhile, it was also confirmed that the removal of 566 spent fuel assemblies stored in the plant's reactor 3 - one of three reactors to experience meltdowns and explosions in March 2011 -- will be delayed until after the new year. The removal was originally slated to commence this November but machinery required for the delicate operations was shown to be malfunctioning, making the scheduled removal impossible.
Sources: NHK, Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei