The ruined Fukushima nuclear plant spilled radioactive water, but none escaped the facility

TOKYO –

Highly radioactive water leaked from a treatment machine at the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but no one was injured and radiation monitoring shows no impact on the outside environment, the plant’s operator said Thursday. public services company.

A plant worker found the leak Wednesday morning during valve checks on a SARRY treatment machine designed to primarily remove cesium and strontium from contaminated water, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings said. The machine has been down for maintenance work.

An estimated 5.5 metric tons (6 tons) of radioactive water – enough to fill two communal backyard swimming pools – leaked through a vent, leaving a puddle of water on an iron plate outside and seeping into the ground around it, TEPCO said. but no radioactive water escaped from the complex.

The leaked water was 10 times more radioactive than the legal release limit, TEPCO said. The pool of water has been cleaned and contaminated soil is being removed, TEPCO spokesman Kenichi Takahara said.

It’s unclear when the machine started leaking, but TEPCO said no problems were detected in an inspection Tuesday.

The leak may have been caused by valves that were left open while workers washed the machine with filtered water, a process intended to reduce radiation levels before maintenance work, Takahara said. TEPCO said 10 of 16 air valves that should have been closed were left open during the flush and the leak stopped when the valves were closed.

Radiation levels around the plant and within the complex’s gutters have not shown any increase.

Takahara apologized for the leak and said TEPCO is committed to thoroughly investigating and taking preventative measures. He said the company pledged to prioritize safety when decommissioning the plant and to manage contaminated water and discharges “with maximum alert levels.”

The filter machine is part of TEPCO’s controversial wastewater disposal project, which began in August. The Fukushima Daiichi plant suffered three meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The dumping, which is expected to continue for decades, has been strongly opposed by fishing groups and neighboring countries, including China, which immediately banned imports of all Japanese seafood.

The next round of water releases will begin later this month.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, in a daily briefing on Thursday, said the latest incident highlighted management problems at TEPCO and questioned its ability to safely carry out water discharge. treated for decades.

Wang urged Japan to respond to the international community’s concerns and handle the discharge responsibly while cooperating with an independent, long-term monitoring system involving neighboring countries and other stakeholders.

The latest leak comes just months after another accidental leak at a separate treatment facility called the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS.

In that accident, four workers were sprayed with radioactive liquid waste while cleaning ALPS pipes. Although two of them were briefly hospitalized for skin contamination, none showed symptoms of poisoning.

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