An estimated 5,500 litres of radioactive water leaked from Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant – but no sign of contamination has been detected outside the facility
Around 5.5 metric tons of highly radioactive water leaked from a treatment machine at Japan’s tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The leak was found by a plant worker on Wednesday morning during valve checks at a treatment machine designed to remove caesium from the contaminated water – but no one was injured and radiation monitoring shows no impact on the outside environment, the utility operator confirmed today. The machine is no longer operating as maintenance work is being carried out.
The leak, big enough to fill two swimming pools, escaped through an air vent, leaving a stream of water on an iron plate outside which seeped into the soil around it. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) confirmed no radioactive water has escaped the compound.
TEPCO also said no further issues were detected in a separate inspection on Tuesday, and are unsure when the machine began leaking. It is thought to be caused by valves being accidentally left open while workers flushed the machine with filtered water. in total, 10 of the 16 valves that should have been closed were left open during the flushing. The leak stopped when the valves were shut off.
There was no increase in the levels of radiation around the plant and inside gutters on the compound. The machine was fitted as part of TEPCO’s wastewater discharge project, which began in August.
The Fukushima Daiichi plant was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, suffering core meltdowns that released radiation and resulted in a level-7 nuclear accident – the highest on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale.
The tsunami resulted in a human death toll of about 19,500 and left coastal ports and towns severely damaged, with more than a million buildings destroyed or partly collapsed.
TEPCO’s discharge plans, set to go on for decades, have been opposed by fishing groups and neighbouring countries, including China, who immediately banned imports of all Japanese seafood.
The latest leak comes just months after another separate incident at a treatment facility called the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS. There, four workers were sprayed with radioactive liquid waste while cleaning the ALPS piping. Two were briefly hospitalised for skin contamination, but none of them showed symptoms of poisoning.