Radiation levels jump in Japan’s groundwater

Independent Online – April 15, 2011

The operator of a stricken nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan reported that levels of radioactive iodine and caesium in groundwater has soared at the plant, a sign of seepage from nearby reactor turbine buildings, a news report said on Friday.

The report came as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) struggled to transfer highly radioactive water to a nearby storage vessel.

TEPCO pumped out 660 tons, the level of polluted water in an underground trench at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station edged up again, Kyodo News reported.

A groundwater sample taken April 6 near the reactor 1 turbine building showed radioactive iodine-131 at 72 becquerels per cubic metre, with the concentration level growing to 400 becquerels as of Wednesday. The concentration of caesium-134 leapt from 1.4 becquerels to 53 becquerels, Kyodo reported, citing the latest findings.

The government had already ordered TEPCO to reinforce monitoring of groundwater at the plant.

Workers need to remove 60 000 tons of contaminated water collected in the basements of the turbine buildings of reactors 1, 2 and 3 as well as the trenches connected to them.

The removal of the water is crucial, as it has hindered work to restore key cooling functions of the reactors to avert a potential disaster, after the cooling systems failed after the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, leading to partial meltdowns, explosions and releases of radiation.


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