TEPCO Reveals Another Leak at Fukushima Plant
Officials in charge of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have a new controversy on their hands. They've disclosed yet another leak of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Workers first discovered the problem nearly a year ago. NHK WORLD's Jun Yotsumoto looks into why Tokyo Electric Power waited until now to make the information public.
TEPCO officials say workers discovered a pool of water on the roof of the Number 2 reactor building, which they describe as "relatively highly radioactive." They say highly radioactive material inside the reactor made the water contaminated.
The officials say the water flowed from the reactor building through a drainage channel, and then spilled into the Pacific Ocean. They've admitted that they knew about it as early as last April.
TEPCO executives say there has been no change in the amount of radioactive substances in seawater near the plant. They also say the leak has been brought under control by putting devices that soak up radioactive substances inside the drainage channel.
Dealing with toxic water is a constant challenge at the plant. Groundwater seeps into reactor buildings damaged in the March 2011 disaster. About 350,000 liters of it accumulates every day.
TEPCO has set up about 1,000 tanks to store contaminated water. But once they fill up, the company will have little space to add more. A new plans includes a way to work around that. Workers would pump up groundwater, treat it, and then discharge it into a port attached to the plant. Officials have been trying to convince local fishermen to agree to the proposal.
On Feb 25th, they met with the leaders of the local fisheries cooperative to apologize for the latest leak. But a representative of the group questioned why TEPCO didn't release information about the leak earlier, adding the group doesn't trust the company any longer.
Since the disaster 4 years ago, TEPCO's executives have said rebuilding ties with local communities is one of their biggest priorities. But they've come under harsh criticism for their handling of contaminated water. Now, news about the latest leak is further undermining people's goodwill, and fueling a fresh backlash.