Radioactive Water Overflow Would Be Worse Than Airborne

Friday, June 3, 2011
By Paul Martin

SFGate.com
June 3

The water level in basements and trenches at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima plant rose and may contain more radiation than is known to have been released into the atmosphere in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The amount of contaminated water rose to about 105 million liters (28 million gallons) from 100 million liters on May 18, and may start overflowing after June 20, the company known as Tepco said in a statement today. Radiation in the water is estimated at 720,000 terabecquerels, general manager Junichi Matsumoto said at a media briefing in Tokyo.

Tepco has pumped millions of liters of water to cool three reactors that melted down at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and backup generators, crippling its cooling systems. With Japan’s rainy season in full swing, heavy downpours threaten to flood the plant and leak more radiation into the sea, soil and air.

“The risk of overflow is as serious as the meltdown of reactor fuel rods that’s already happened,” Tetsuo Ito, the head of the Atomic Energy Research Institute at Kinki University in western Japan, said in a phone interview. “Tepco should’ve acknowledged this risk weeks ago and could’ve taken any urgent measures.”

A water de-contamination unit being built at the plant will start operating after June 15 and an underground tank capable of holding 10 million liters will be ready by the middle of August, Tepco said in today’s statement.

Radiation in Atmosphere

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