News / Asia

Source of Contamination at Fukushima Nuclear Plant Unknown

A leakage detective unit (C) and its detection punch unit on an underground water storage tank are seen at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this undated photograph released by TEPCO on April 6, 2013.
A leakage detective unit (C) and its detection punch unit on an underground water storage tank are seen at TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this undated photograph released by TEPCO on April 6, 2013.
Fresh revelations about radiation contamination from the operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant and a government regulator are prompting new concerns in Japan.

What is expected to be a decades-long battle to halt radiation leaks and to clean up contaminated soil and water at the Fukushima-1 nuclear plant is back in the public eye following the release of new information this week.

The destroyed facility's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), says there have been significant increases in recent months in levels of radioactive cesium in the groundwater, as well as strontium and tritium offshore.

Meanwhile, the head of the recently established Japan Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, acknowledges contaminated water has probably been continually leaking into the Pacific Ocean since the plant was swamped by a tsunami triggered by a magnitude nine earthquake on March 11, 2011.

"The ocean continues to be contaminated to some extent, great or small,” Tanaka said, adding that that while it peaked at the time of the disaster two years ago, he thinks it has been continuing even after that.

Japan marks second anniversary of Fukushima disaster

  • People bow their heads in a moment of silence around what is left of a disaster control center devastated by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2013.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe bows to Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko during the national memorial service for the victims of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami in Tokyo, March 11, 2013.
  • Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko leave the national memorial service for the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tokyo, March 11, 2013.
  • People observe a moment of silence for the victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami during an event at a park in Tokyo, March 11, 2013.
  • A local resident and a dog walk near a ship brought ashore by the March 11, 2011 tsunami and earthquake in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2013.
  • The Netherlands (top) and Cuban baseball teams offer a silent tribute to victims of March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunam, before their World Baseball Classic (WBC) second round game in Tokyo, March 11, 2013.
  • Buddhist monks chant sutras in front of the main entrance of Okawa Elementary School where 74 of the 108 students went missing after the March 11, 2011 tsunami in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture, Japan, March 11, 2013.
  • Police officers search for the remains of those who went missing in the March 11, 2011 tsunami on the coastline in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, northern Japan, March 11, 2013.
  • A visitor lights a candle to remember the victims of the March 11, 2011 tsunami and earthquake, in Tokyo, March 10, 2013.

Junichi Sato, the program director in Japan for the environmental group Greenpeace, said in a interview with VOA that this is fresh cause for concern.

“Mainly, in the past, the contamination was caused by the intentional release of the contaminated water," said Sato. "That's what they have been saying that's the reason for the contamination. But what we are talking about is now the groundwater leakage which means a continuous contamination of the oceans.”

According to Sato, Greenpeace has been asking TEPCO since May to allow a third party to enter within the five kilometer exclusive zone to independently sample the radiation level in coastal waters.

Nuclear regulator Tanaka admits the source of the leak is not known nor does anyone have a plan to stop it.

Tanaka, speaking to reporters, says there is no “rock solid solution," and if there was one then they would go ahead and implement it. Officials and TEPCO, he said, will likely have resort to “trial-and-error” methods to attempt to source and solve the problem.
 
Meanwhile, the Kyodo news agency reports that a contractor for the massive cleanup operation has discharged 340 tons of radioactive water into a Fukushima river. Local governments have complained about the disposal, saying they were not told about it in advance, but Kyodo says the contractor, JDC Corporation, dumped the contaminated water only after being told that the Japan Atomic Energy Agency had explained the action to relevant local officials. The river is a source of water for agriculture in the prefecture which is one of Japan's major sources of rice and other crops.

Sato at Greenpeace is among those lamenting that the fresh revelations regarding radiation contamination are receiving scant notice in Japanese newspapers and television broadcasts.

“Because it's been already two years and four months since the disaster, the government and also the media wants to play bad news quite low because they think that doesn't help the people in Fukushima or the recovery of Fukushima," he said. "We want to argue that unless you give the proper information, the correct information, the recovery of Fukushima can never happen.”

The meltdowns of three reactors at the Fukushima-1 plant has had severe repercussions for the nuclear power industry in resource-poor Japan. Before the 2011 disaster, the heavily industrialized island nation was dependent on nuclear power for nearly one-third of its energy needs.

All but two of Japan's working reactors remain idle. They must meet stricter government safety standards before receiving permission to again generate electricity for the world's third largest economy.

Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid