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

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt 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.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid