News & Politics

Radioactive Water Gushing into Pacific From Nuclear Plant Is ‘Millions of Times Over Limit’


The situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant seems to get worse daily. According to CNN, the radiation level of water now flowing into the Pacific from the plant is “more than millions of times above the regulatory limit.” Radiation from samples taken over the weekend outside one of the reactors was at 7.5 million times the legal limit; newer tests say it’s now at 5 million times the limit. Radiation has also been found in a sample of fresh fish, causing authorities to begin to regulate radiation in seafood, along with vegetables and milk.

As announced yesterday, the plant will start dumping 11,500 tons of radioactive water into the ocean to make room for more radioactive water to be held at the plant.

The most contaminated batches of this water comes from outside the No. 6 reactor, likely having gotten in via groundwater (and not a breach in the unit itself), officials said. It has a concentration of iodine-131 that would be 100 times more than the maximum amount of tap water that infants could drink, and 10 times more than what would be OK in food.

While Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has apologized that this is something they must do, Hidehiko Nishiyama, an official with Japan’s nuclear and industrial safety agency, says that it will post “no major health hazard,” and experts agree that the contamination will “quickly dilute.”

(Remember what Tony Hayward said about the oil spill being a “tiny” drop in a very big ocean?)

CNN also reports the bit of good news that at least airborne radiation seems to be decreasing in northeast Japan, and that the conditions at the plant are “generally stable” — except that “authorities still don’t know how exactly the gushing water got contaminated, where it came from, or how to fix potential leaks and cracks deep inside the reactor complex and nuclear fuel.”

And then there’s this touching interview with a Japanese tsunami survivor who is preparing to join the workers at the Fukushima plant. He says, “To be honest, no one wants to go. Radiation levels at the plant are unbelievably high compared with normal conditions. I know that when I go this time, I will return with a body no longer capable of work at a nuclear plant.”

Radiation in water rushing into sea tests millions of times over limit [CNN]
Japan tsunami survivor returns to help save nuclear plant [AFP]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 5, 2011

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