DOHA, Oct 25 2012 (IPS) – Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tonnes of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors, the manager of the water treatment team has said.
About 200,000 tonnes of radioactive water, enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools, are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will be more than tripled within three years.
“It’s a time-pressing issue because the storage of contaminated water has its limits, there is only limited storage space,” the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told the AP news agency in an exclusive interview this week.
But even though the reactors now are being cooled exclusively with recycled water, the volume of contaminated water is still increasing, mostly because groundwater is seeping through cracks into the reactor and turbine basements.
Next month, Okamura’s group plans to flip the switch on new purifying equipment using Toshiba Corp. technology.
“By purifying the water using the ALPS system, theoretically, all radioactive products can be purified to below detection levels,” he said.
But in the meantime its tanks are filling up, mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing groundwater to pour in.
Masashi Goto, a nuclear engineer and university lecturer, said the contaminated water build-up posed a major long-term threat to health and the environment.
He said he was worried that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant via underground water channels, possibly reaching the ocean or public water supplies.
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