Fukushima Has Been Leaking Radioactive Water Since May, But Tepco Didn’t Tell Anyone

Fukushima Daiichi
Workers in protective suits and masks wait to enter the emergency operation center at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima prefecture, November 12, 2011. David Guttenfelder/Pool/reuters

The fallout from the Fukushima disaster is far from over.

The operator of the crippled nuclear power plant announced Sunday that sensors in its drainage system had detected a leak of contaminated water 50 to 70 times more radioactive than radioactivity levels already seen on its campus—which the AFP points out were already quite high.

The drainage system discharges water into a nearby bay, which flows into the Pacific Ocean. The operating company, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), said it shut down a gutter to prevent the contaminated water from reaching the Pacific on Sunday morning. The radiation levels dropped off steadily throughout the day, but were still 10 to 20 times higher than usual later in the day.

Yet more bad news surfaced just days later: On Tuesday, Tepco announced it had detected elevated levels of radiation in rainwater pooling on the roof of a plant building back in May, but had failed to disclose the finding until now, according to NBC News. The radioactive water had likely leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained, Tepco announced.

Tepco has been “aware since last spring” that the rainwater pooling in one corner of the roof contained 23,000 becquerels per liter of radioactive material cesium 137, which is more than 10 times more radioactive than samples of water taken from other parts of the roof, Reuters reports.

Local commercial fishermen are reportedly outraged at the announcement.

“I don’t understand why [Tepco] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked,” Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said at a meeting with Tepco officials, The Japan Times reported on Tuesday.

The decommissioning of the Fukushima plant has been plagued by a staggering number of accidents. This week’s leak announcements are the latest in a string of high-stakes radioactive water errors since an earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant in 2011. A highly diluted radioactive plume from the original incident, meanwhile, has reached the waters off of California.

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