Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Japan nuclear watchdog fears leak may be harbinger of more

TOKYO — Japan's nuclear watchdog said a leak of highly radioactive water at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant could be the beginning of a new disaster — a series of leaks of contaminated water from storage tanks.

The plant operator has built hundreds of steel tanks to store massive amounts of radioactive water coming from three melted reactors, as well as underground water running into reactor and turbine basements.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. says about 80,000 gallons of contaminated water leaked from one of the tanks, possibly through a seam. The leak is the fifth, and the worst, since last year involving tanks of the same design at the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, raising concerns that contaminated water could begin leaking from storage tanks one after another.

"That's what we fear the most. We must remain alert. We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more," Nuclear Regulation Authority chairman Shunichi Tanaka told a news conference. "We are in a situation where there is no time to waste."

The watchdog also proposed at a weekly meeting Wednesday to raise the rating of the seriousness of the leak to level 3, a "serious incident," from level 1, "an anomaly," on an International Nuclear and Radiological event scale of eight.

The watchdog urged TEPCO to step up monitoring for leaks and take precautionary measures.

During the meeting, officials also revealed that plant workers apparently have overlooked several signs of leaks, suggesting that their twice-daily patrols were largely just a walk. They have not monitored water levels inside tanks, obviously missed a puddle forming at the bottom of the tank earlier, and kept open a valve on an anti-leakage barrier around the tanks.

TEPCO said the leaked water is thought to have mostly seeped into the ground after escaping from the barrier around the tank. It initially said the leak did not pose an immediate threat to the sea.

But TEPCO reversed that view late Wednesday and acknowledged a possible leak to the sea after detecting high radioactivity inside a gutter extending to the ocean.

The company also said the tank may have been leaking slowly for weeks through a possible flaw in its bottom. That could create extensive soil contamination and a blow to plans to release untainted underground water into the sea as part of efforts to reduce the amount of radioactive water.

This Aug. 20, 2013, aerial photo shows the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant at Okuma in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. The Japanese nuclear watchdog proposed Wednesday to define a fresh leakage of highly radioactive leak from one of the hundreds of storage tanks at Japan’s crippled atomic power plant this week, its worst leak yet from such a vessel.

AP photo

This Aug. 20, 2013, aerial photo shows the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant at Okuma in Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. The Japanese nuclear watchdog proposed Wednesday to define a fresh leakage of highly radioactive leak from one of the hundreds of storage tanks at Japan’s crippled atomic power plant this week, its worst leak yet from such a vessel.

Japan nuclear watchdog fears leak may be harbinger of more 08/21/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 11:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Associated Press.
    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Police: Uber driver's gun discharges during fight at Adventure Island in Tampa

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — An Uber driver's gun went off Sunday at Adventure Island during a fight between the driver and two passengers.

  2. Baker cautious on Pride politics

    Elections

    Rick and Joyce Baker strode down Central Avenue Sunday amid rainbow flags, corporate booths, and blaring music of the St. Pete Pride Festival.

    St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Rick Baker chats Sunday with people at the St. Pete Pride Festival. As mayor, Baker did not sign a Pride parade proclamation, but now he says he would.
  3. Rays' bullpen stars lit up in loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday it was the soft underbelly of the bullpen that let one get away from the Rays, incurring the wrath of the team's faithful followers, who wondered why the high-leverage guys weren't pitching.

    Rays closer Alex Colome, coming in with the score tied in the ninth, allows three runs in his second straight poor outing.
  4. Lightning among early suitors for defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said he planned to explore free agency for potential needs, which include bolstering his blue line and adding a wing or two.

    Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, who can be a free agent Saturday, counts the Lightning among his early suitors.
  5. Senate leaders try to appease members as support for health bill slips

    National

    WASHINGTON — Senate Republican leaders scrambled Sunday to rally support for their health care bill, even as opposition continued to build outside Congress and two Republican senators questioned whether the bill would be approved this week.

    Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Thursday, is one of the five Republican senators who announced they cannot support the health care bill as drafted.