AsianScientist (Aug. 22, 2013) – Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has raised the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant from one to three on an international scale, representing a “serious incident” and its highest warning in two years.
The re-classification came after operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said some 300 tons of radioactive water was believed to have leaked from a tank at the crippled plant. The water had been pumped to cool the reactors, which led to a large amount of contaminated water being stored on site.
It is seen as the most serious leak to date since the March 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, due to the volume of the leak and radioactivity in the water.
This week, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority raised the assessment from level one to three on the UN International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), which runs from zero to seven with seven being the worst. Only two events have ever been classified as level seven: the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima two years ago and the Chernobyl accident in 1986.
“We are removing the soil contaminated with the leaked water, while sucking the remaining water from the troubled tank,” a TEPCO spokesman said, adding that the operator was trying to contain the contamination from reaching the Pacific ocean.
Only in late July did the company publicly acknowledge that contaminated groundwater had been leaking outside the plant from basements and trenches.
At a conference yesterday evening in Tokyo, Japanese authorities appealed for external help while also demanding that TEPCO take immediate measures to stop radioactive leakage into the Pacific. The Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has offered its help to the beleaguered company.
After the disaster in 2011, most of Japan’s 50 nuclear power plants were taken out of service for safety checks, while large areas around the plant were evacuated. To date, only two plants have returned to service.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine; Photo: Global2000/Flickr/CC.
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