Tons of water exposed to radiation have leaked during a transfer operation at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, owner TEPCO announced Tuesday. The new leak marks the latest in mounting failures to contain the ever-increasing quantity of water contaminated by efforts to cool the plant's melted reactors.
Following heavy rains, workers pumped trapped water into a temporary tank, a TEPCO spokesperson stated Tuesday. In the process, workers "found water was spilling from the manhole on top of the tank," releasing an estimated 4 tons of water into the ground, according to the spokesperson.
“The water itself was rain water. But it was from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and could contain radioactive materials,” the spokesperson said. “The water seeped into the ground.”
The leak comes amid growing signs of structural flaws with the temporary tanks where the radioactive water is currently being held, including constant reports that leaks are releasing the water into the groundwater, and by extension, the sea. TEPCO says it has resorted to patching tank leaks with plastic tape.
The problem of contaminated rainwater is likely to increase as more heavy rains are expected in coming days due to an approaching storm.
The problem can only grow worse, as each day the melted reactors are flooded with hundreds of tons of water—the main strategy for cooling the melted reactors. This water then becomes contaminated and its growing quantities stored in leaking tanks. TEPCO has no clear strategy to safely contain or dispose of the contaminated water.
The Japanese government announced in early September it will invest $500 million to build a giant 'wall of ice' surrounding the plant. Yet, experts predict it will take at least 2 years to complete, and there is no evidence that this is enough to stem the crisis, let alone contain the immediate emergency of radioactive leakage.