Radioactive groundwater is slowly creeping toward the Pacific Ocean from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The water is part of an underground reservoir of contaminated water that started spilling from the plant’s reactors two years ago.
The nuclear plant has been crippled since a massive tsunami, triggered by an earthquake, struck Japan in March of 2011. The wave caused a series of meltdowns that comprised the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
But the problem is actually worse than officials previously allowed the public to believe, reports ABC News. The groundwater leak shows that officials are unable to contain the vast quantities of radioactive water contained in the plant’s storage tanks.
The announcement that the contaminated underground water is close to reaching the Pacific also comes the same week as nuclear officials announced a massive tank at the plant that stores contaminated water use to cool the reactor cores is leaking. It has leaked an estimated 300-tons of water.
Fox News notes that several experts also believe the underground contamination is worse than officials are saying. While the impending ocean contamination is certainly bad news, there is no knowing what the contamination’s impact on the ocean will be. The radioactivity will be diluted as it spreads farther into the sea.
The majority of fishing in the area has already been banned at the risk of contaminated seafood. But fisherman in nearby Iwaki City were hoping to resume their jobs after favorable sampling results. But that won’t happen now.
About 1,000 tons of underground water flows near the plant each day. About 400 tons of that seeps into the reactor and turbine basements, immediately becoming contaminated. While the remaining 600 tons avoids contamination there, it is believed about half of that still comes in contact with contamination at some point before it enters the sea.
Scientists have long suspected ocean contamination from Fukushima after repeated tests showing high radioactive cesium levels in bottom-dwelling fish. However, it wasn’t until recently that the plant’s officials acknowledged the leaks. It is unclear what the impact from the radioactive groundwater will be once it reaches the ocean.