Enviro News - June 2013

Toxic Groundwater at Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Posted by Paul Fiddian - Enviro News' Lead Reporter on 19/06/2013 - 05:45:00

Toxic Fukushima Groundwater

Toxic material has been discovered in the groundwater at the Japanese nuclear plant that famously leaked after the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in March 2011.

The contaminated Fukushima plant water contains high levels of strontium-90 and tritium, according to information now released by Tepco - the Tokyo Electric Power Company. In particular, the strontium-90 is present at no less than 30 times the legal limit, while the tritium presence exceeds the legal maximum eight times over.

The 2011 Japanese tsunami had a devastating effect on the Fukushima nuclear power plant, disabling the reactors' cooling systems and, thus, causing a melt-down. Much more recently, the Fukushima facility has been hit by multiple power failures and leaks.

The earthquake and tsunami ultimately killed some 18,000 people but not one fatality has been directly linked to the nuclear leak: the most extensive of its kind to have occurred anywhere in the world since the mid-1980s.

Toxic Fukushima Groundwater

As per information given to journalists by Tepco representative Toshihiko Fukuda, the company thinks the raised strontium-90 and tritium levels in the toxic Fukushima groundwater are related to one of the 2011 water leaks.

"As it's near where the leak from reactor number two happened and taking into account the situation at the time, we believe that water left over from that time is the highest possibility", he explained.

Strontium-90 is a toxic radioactive isotope with a half-life of 28.79 years that's produced during the nuclear fission process. Tritium has a half-life of 12.32 years and it's used in products such as glow-in-the-dark watches.

The strontium-90 and tritium discoveries represent yet another setback for the Fukushima nuclear power plant. To stay within legal limits, a litre of groundwater cannot contain more than 30 becquerels (the unit in which radioactive materials are measured) of strontrium-90. In December 2012, Fukushima's groundwater contained 8.6 becquerels of strontium-90 but, in May 2013, that total reached a staggering 1,000 becquerels.

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