Fukushima Power Plant Leaking into Ground Water

B. McPherson

The wrecked Fukushima power plant in Japan is continuing to contaminate the environment with radioactive materials. High levels of tritium and strontium-90 have been detected in the groundwater beneath reactor 2. Tepco officials are maintaining their record of incompetence and obfuscation by speculating that the high levels likely leaked via the turbine building.

The ground water levels of strontium-90 have increased 100x since December 2012(measurments taken in May). Strontium-90 is a dangerous radioactive element that the body incorporates in the same way as it incorporates calcium. It was prevalent in the atmosphere during the post WWII Cold War, when many nations were doing nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere. The half-life for strontium-90 is 28 years, so it continues to release radiation for many years.

Tepco is now partially owned by the Japanese government. In a clever way to spread the costs of the attempted cleanup, the Japanese government assumed ownership of a share of the company. The competence of those in charge seems consistent however. The company has been plagued with incidents that would be laughable if not for the dire consequences surrounding the escaping radiation.

The latest incident involves metal above ground tanks built to hold contaminated water used to cool the nuclear reactor cores. Tepco has been refused permission to dump any more water into the Pacific Ocean. The large tanks designed to hold water have leaky welds. Also leaking out is news that the groundwater contains radioactive cesium. These new, leaky tanks were constructed to contain the radioactive water in underground pools that have been allowing toxic water to escape into the ground.

Strontium-90: close to calcium and is incorporated in bones. Health hazards include bone cancer, leukemia
Tritium: targets soft tissues and organs, increases chances of cancer
Cesium: increases risk of cancers

It is estimated that it will take at least 40 years to clean up the former nuclear power station. The term cleanup is a relative one in that radiation has poisoned a wide area of Japan and leaked into the ocean.

Sometimes the Friendly Atom is not so friendly.

Further Reading: Japan Daily Press 

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