Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Leak At Fukushima Plant Contaminates Six Workers

Six workers at Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant were exposed to a leak of highly radioactive water on Wednesday (October 9, the latest in a string of mishaps the country's nuclear watchdog has attributed to carelessness, saying they could have been avoided.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, also known as Tepco, has been battling to contain radioactive water at the plant, which suffered triple meltdowns and hydrogen explosions following a devastating earthquake in March 2011.

In the latest incident, the company said a worker mistakenly detached a pipe connected to a treatment system to remove salt from the hundreds of tonnes of water Tepco pumps over the melted fuel in wrecked reactors at Fukushima to keep them cool.

"Some of our workers mistakenly removed the lock on a pressure hose in the wrong location, which caused a leak from the hose," said Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono.

Tepco said seven tonnes of water were spilled in Wednesday's incident at the treatment facility but were contained within the site, adding that the leaked water had an all-beta radiation level of 34 million becquerels per liter.

"At the moment we only have provisional figures, but we think the amount of water that leaked was about 7 tonnes. We have confirmed the leak has stopped within the building and has not seeped out into the wider area," Ono said.

The accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, 220 km (130 miles) north of Tokyo, are adding to a crisis no one seems to know how to contain, and stirring doubt over Tepco's abilities to carry out a complex cleanup widely expected to take decades.

"Six people have had their bodies irradiated and it is true that big mistakes like this continue to occur again and again. It is therefore essential that we do something to stop this chain of events," Ono said.

Last week, Tepco said 430 liters (113 gallons) of contaminated water had spilled out of a storage tank at Fukushima and probably flowed to the ocean.