Japan’s prime minister has spoken out about the need for action to deal with the build up of radioactive water at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his industry ministry on Wednesday to take appropriate measures to tackle the “urgent issue” of radioactive water building up at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
The ministry of economy, trade and industry needed to be more proactive role in dealing with the problems at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco) Fukushima Daiichi plant, Abe told reporters after attending a meeting of the government’s task force on the nuclear disaster.
He stopped short of committing government funds to deal with the mounting levels of radioactive water.
Tepco has been widely castigated for its failure to protect the Fukushima plant, 220km northeast of Tokyo, from the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that led to the worst nuclear disaster in the world since Chernobyl and its inept response to the reactor meltdowns.
Radioactive groundwater at the plant has risen to levels above a barrier being built to contain it, highlighting the risk of an increasing amount of contaminated water reaching the sea, Japanese media reported on Saturday.
The Asahi newspaper, citing data from a meeting of a task force working on the Fukushima clean-up at Japan’s nuclear regulator, estimated that the contaminated water could swell to the ground surface within three weeks.
One of Tepco’s biggest challenges is trying to contain radioactive water that cools the reactors as it mixes with some 400 tonnes of fresh groundwater pouring into the plant daily.
Tepco has been injecting a chemical into the ground to build barriers to contain the groundwater. But the method is only effective in solidifying the ground from 1.8m below the surface, whereas data from test wells shows the contaminated water has risen to 1m below the surface, the Asahi said.
Last week, a Tepco official said equipment to pump out the water should be ready in late August.
The Asahi noted that Tepco would need to pump out about 100 tonnes of water each day to prevent leakage into the ocean but that it was not clear where the water would be stored. More than 85% of its 380 000 tonnes of storage capacity is already filled, and Tepco has acknowledged it could run out of space.
Last month Tepco reversed months of denials and acknowledged that radioactive water has been leaking into the ocean. – Reuters