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Toxic Water Leak Contaminates 6 Workers at Fukushima

FILE - An aerial view shows the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and its contaminated water storage tanks.
The operator of Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant says six workers were exposed to a toxic water leak during another embarrassing mishap at the tsunami-stricken facility.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said on Wednesday that a worker mistakenly removed a pipe from a unit that was treating highly radioactive water used to cool the plant's damaged reactors.

TEPCO said several tons of toxic water leaked out of the pipe, spraying onto the workers. The exposure is not believed to be serious, since the workers were wearing protective gear. The company does not believe any of the radioactive water reached the ocean. The pipe has since been reconnected.

Last week, workers at Fukushima overfilled a storage tank that did not contain water level meters, spilling 430 liters of contaminated water. The contaminated water most likely entered the nearby Pacific Ocean.

The tank is one of about a thousand hastily built structures meant to hold toxic water used to cool the plant's reactors after were damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

In August, TEPCO said about 300 tons of radioactive water leaked from one of the tanks, most of it reaching the ocean. It also acknowledged that hundreds of tons of toxic groundwater are seeping into the ocean every day.

The accidents have called into question TEPCO's ability to manage the cleanup effort. They have also prompted the Japanese government to step up its involvement in decommissioning the facility, a process that could take decades.