Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Japan Nuclear Power Plant Stops Radiation-Tainted Water From Leaking Into Ocean

Reuters reports that engineers have stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea from a crippled Japanese nuclear power plant, the facility's operator said on Wednesday, a breakthrough in the battle to contain the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.However, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) still needs to pump contaminated water into the sea because of a lack of storage space at the facility.

"The leaks were slowed yesterday after we injected a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent and it has now stopped," a TEPCO spokesman told Reuters .Japan is facing its worst crisis since World War Two after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami hit its northeast coast, leaving nearly 28,000 people dead or missing, thousands homeless, and rocking the world’s third-largest economy.

Samples of the water used to cool reactor No. 2 were 5 million times the legal limit of radioactivity, officials said on Tuesday, adding to fears that contaminants had spread far beyond the disaster zone.

The government is considering imposing radioactivity restrictions on seafood for the first time in the crisis after contaminated fish were found.India also became the first country to ban food imports from all areas of Japan over radiation fears.

Workers are still struggling to restart cooling pumps — which recycle the water — in four reactors damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.

Until those are fixed, they must pump in water from outside to prevent overheating and meltdowns. In the process, that creates more contaminated water that has to be pumped out and stored somewhere else or released into the sea.

There is a total of 60,000 tonnes of highly contaminated water in the plant after workers poured in seawater when fuel rods experienced partial meltdown after the earthquake and tsunami hit northeast Japan on March 11.

TEPCO on Monday had to start releasing 11,500 tonnes of low-level radioactive seawater after it ran out of storage capacity for more highly contaminated water. The release will continue until Friday.

Asked about media reports some countries had complained about Japan's dumping seawater back into the ocean, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), said Japan was trying to adhere to its obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to avoid contamination of the ocean.

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