After a huge typhoon struck, the operator of the severely damaged Fukushima nuclear plant said Tuesday it dumped more than 1,000 tons of polluted water into the sea.
Typhoon Man-yi smashed into Japan Monday, bringing with it heavy rain that caused flooding in some parts of the country.
The rain also soaked the broken plant run by Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), swamping enclosure walls around clusters of water tanks containing toxic water used to cool broken reactors.
Some of the tanks continue to leak contaminated water. The Fukushima Dai-ichi plant has been leaking hundreds of tons of contaminated underground water into the sea since shortly after a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami damaged the complex.
“Workers measured the radioactive levels of the water collected in the enclosure walls, pumping it back into tanks when the levels were high,” said a Tepco official.
“Once finding it was mostly rain water they released it from the enclosure, because there is a limit on how much water we can store.”
The utility said about 1,130 tons of water with low levels of radiation — below the 30 becquerels of strontium per liter safety limit imposed by Japanese authorities — released into the ground.
But the company also said at one site where water ended up contaminated beyond the safety limit, workers could not start the water pump quick enough in the torrential rain, and toxic water had leaked from the enclosure for several minutes.
Strontium is a potentially cancer-causing substance that accumulates in bones if consumed.
Tepco is storing thousands of metric tons of water that poured on the reactors to tame meltdowns in temporary tanks at the plant. The beleaguered power utility has no real plan on what to do with all that water.
The problem worsened with the revelation there are leaks in some of those tanks which have seeped into groundwater and run out to sea.
Separately, around 300 metric tons of mildly contaminated groundwater is entering the ocean every day having passed under the reactors, Tepco said.