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Tank Has Leaked Tons of Contaminated Water at Japan Nuclear Site via the New York Times

TOKYO — Three hundred tons of highly contaminated water has leaked from a storage tank at the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant on Japan’s Pacific coast, its operator said Tuesday, prompting regulators to declare a “radiological release incident” for the first time since disaster struck there in 2011 and adding new fears of environmental calamity.

Workers raced to place sandbags around the leaking tank to stem the spread of the water, contaminated by levels of radioactive cesium and strontium many hundreds of times as high as legal safety limits, according to the operator, Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco. The task was made more urgent by a forecast of heavy rain for the region.

But a Tepco spokesman, Masayuki Ono, acknowledged that much of the contaminated water had seeped into the soil, which would have to be dug up and removed. And he said the tainted water could eventually reach the ocean, adding to the tons of radioactive fluids that have already leaked into the sea from the plant.

[...]

Desperate for options to stem the leaks, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has suggested surrounding the plant with a huge underground ice wall. That plan has its own drawbacks, however, and would require huge amounts of electricity.

“We are extremely concerned,” Hideka Morimoto, a spokesman for the authority, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

At some point, Tepco will have no choice but to start releasing some of the water, said Dr. Miyano, the expert in nuclear system design. The continued problems have heightened public scrutiny of Tepco and have made it harder to build public consensus around any release of water, he said.

“That just makes the problem worse, with no viable solution,” he said.

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