Currently, over 1 million tons of contaminated water are stored in the tanks, Wired.com reports. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, the utility that owns the plant, has to build a new storage tank for the toxic water every four days.
Contaminated water that TEPCO has been unable to contain continues to enter the Pacific Ocean. Much of that is groundwater that has mixed with untreated radioactive water at the plant.
Authorities have found that up to 150 tons of groundwater seep into cracks in the reactors, where it becomes contaminated, according to Wired. The utility has been attempting to contain the radioactive water by pumping it through a filtering system that releases sodium as it latches onto hazardous isotopes in the water. This leaves behind a toxic sludge that is then stored in sealed canisters.
One of the issues still facing the plant’s water is that the filters can’t catch tritium, which is a radioactive isotope found in hydrogen.
“It’s one thing to separate cesium from water, but how do you separate water from water?” John Raymont, founder of Kurion Inc., the company that provided the facility’s first filtering system, asked Wired.com.
News of contaminated water seeping into the Pacific understandably sparked concerns. However, a study conducted on the radiation concentration in the water determined it’s not impacting the local fishing industry, the Japan Times reports.
Former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission head Dale Klein told Wired.com that the levels of tritium in the water are low enough that it could be safely released into the sea.
“They should dilute and dispose of it,” he added. “It would be better to have a controlled release than an accidental one.”
A few years ago, roughly 400 tons of water flowed into the facility daily, but TEPCO has managed to decrease the inflow by installing a 30-yard-long “ice wall” fence that freezing cold brine is pumped through to freeze the soil around it, reports Wired. The chilled soil is meant to create a barrier to keep additional groundwater from spilling into the radioactive area.
Despite the reduced flow, a group of experts commissioned by Japan’s government found that the wall is not fully effective and other methods are needed, the Asahi Shimbun reports.