News / Asia

Japan Nuclear Plant Releases Contaminated Water Into Ocean

The badly damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Number 1 Daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, March 31, 2011.
The badly damaged Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Number 1 Daiichi nuclear power plant at Okuma town in Fukushima prefecture, March 31, 2011.
Martyn Williams

Tokyo's main electric power company has begun a planned release of thousands of tons of water from a damaged nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The water, which is about 100 times more radioactive than Japan's legal limit, is collected in several areas inside the reactor buildings. But the water being released is less radioactive than the water that has already leaked from the nuclear plant into the ocean.

Plant operators want to expel the water to aid clean up at the facility and to provide storage space for water with much higher radioactivity.

Late Monday, the plant operator began dumping some 11,500 tons of water into the ocean -- a move the Japanese government says this poses no major health risk.

Meanwhile, Tokyo Electric is continuing its attempts to stop the release of highly radioactive water that is about 1,000 times over the legal limit.

Earlier Monday, the company used colored dye to trace the source of the leak. Tokyo Electric suspected the water had been escaping through several cracks found in a concrete maintenance pit.

After several hours, the dyed water had not appeared, leading Tokyo Electric to suspect it might be coming from somewhere else. The company is continuing the search for the source of the leak.

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, announced government plans to increase restrictions on the sale of vegetables.

Edano says the government will halt the sale of vegetables from several areas of Chiba prefecture, which borders Tokyo to the east and is about 200 kilometers to the south of Fukushima.

The vegetables, including spinach, celery and parsley, have tested above the legal limit for radiation.

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