The operator of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday that radioactive water had leaked from one of its storage tanks and into the ground.
Japan’s nuclear watchdog is considering issuing its most serious alert since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that crippled the Fukushima power plant, as radioactive water continues to seep from the facility.
Fukushima’s operator said Tuesday that contaminated water had leaked from one of its storage tanks and into the ground. According to Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the leak was discovered by an employee on Monday, the BBC reported.
The release of 300 tons of highly radioactive water was initially classed as a level-one incident, the second lowest level on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).
However, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has proposed elevating it to level three on the seven-point scale, the BBC said. That would raise it from an “anomaly” to a “serious incident,” according to the Ines classification.
The move has yet to be approved by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but it is the first time Japan’s watchdog has issued an Ines alert since 2011.
As the water leaked on and with the possibility of heavy rain, plant workers rushed on Monday to put sandbags around the tank in order to stop the leak spreading, The New York Times said.
Tepco said that the contaminated water that had already seeped into the ground could eventually reach the ocean, where there are already several tons of radioactive fluids that came from the plant.
The latest leak, which is separate from others reported in recent weeks, has such high levels of radiation that a person standing half a meter away from the area would receive a dose of radiation five times the usual annual global limit for those working in the nuclear industry, Reuters reported.
Someone within that same proximity to the leak would develop radiation sickness after 10 hours. Symptoms include nausea and a drop in white blood cells
◇ Matt McGrath, BBC News Environment Correspondent’s comments on Fukushima nuclear plant: Radioactive water leak found:
However, while this latest development is a concern, the scale of the overall radiation leakage at Fukushima must be kept in some perspective.
According to Dr Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, the total amount of the radioactive element caesium produced since the disaster began at Fukushima is roughly equal to the amount that has been emitted at Windscale/Sellafield since operations began there 60 years ago.