The severity of the leaking water tank at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant was upgraded by the country’s nuclear regulator to Level 3 on an international scale for radiological releases.
While higher than previous known leaks, the level isn’t close to the Level 7 classification given to three meltdowns at the plant in March 2011 directly after a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The nuclear power plant has been crippled ever since and scientists have suspected radiation has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean. However, the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., only acknowledged the leaks recently.
In doing so, the company announced last week that 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from one of the plant’s storage tanks, reports Reuters. The water was used to cool down the plant’s reactor cores. The utility isn’t sure how long the water has been leaking. It added that it is possible the water has made its way to the ocean.
The change in level was made by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) after consultations with the International Atomic Energy Agency. CNN notes that the leak was previously assigned a Level 1 “anomaly rating.” Toshimitsu Motegi, the industry minister, stated on Monday after a visit to the plant that “from now on, the government is going to step forward.”
Motegi’s ministry was tasked with coming up with measures to tackle the continuing and mounting problems at the crippled nuclear facility. Along with a high volume of contaminated water and continued problems stabilizing the reactors, Tokyo Electric Power Co. has also been struggling with multiple leaks.
Along with the storage tank incident, contaminated water from an underground reservoir breached its containment barrier and was seeping into the Pacific Ocean from the site. The company has about 400 tons of groundwater flowing into Fukushima every day. It also pumps a large amount of water through the buildings every day to keep the reactors cool.
About 1,000 containers are now at the site, 350 of which were supposed to be temporary, holding contaminated water. About 93 percent of them are already full. The leak acknowledged last week was from one of Fukushima’s temporary storage tanks.
[Image via Wikimedia Commons]