Thursday, February 20, 2014

Worst Spill in 6 Months Is Reported at Fukushima

The Fukishima nuclear power plant is still facing repercussions after being struck by a tsunami in 2011. The newest incident is the leak that occurred on Wednesday and was contained by Thursday. The leak allowed about 100 tons of highly radioactive materials to flow into surrounding water. It is speculated that the leak was not bad enough to contaminate the Pacific Ocean, like others have, but this does not make it any less serious. Tepco, the company involved, was able to blame the leak of a pair of valves that were mistakenly left open.

The leaked water was some of the most severely contaminated water following the 2011 tsunami. Of the leaked water, a liter contained [on average] 230 million becquerels of particles giving off beta radiation, as reported by Tepco. Among the 230 million particles, about half are believed to be strontium 90. Strontium 90 can be directly linked to bone cancer and leukemia if absorbed by the body. The water surpassed the safety levels by 3.8 million times the amount of strontium 90 allowed. 

Despite criticism, the government has left Tepco the responsibility of cleanup following the 2011 tsunami. Critics claim that Tepco is too slow in recognizing and caring for any problems and they fail to alert the public as to the true conditions the plant is facing.

One problem Tepco has been constantly dealing with is the water that has been seeping into the damaged buildings. They must pump the water out of the plant and into special containers to prevent it from running into the Pacific Ocean. So far, they've contained over 340,000 tons of the contaminated water. 

It seems as though Tepco is slow moving in taking care of the problems at hand. The public wants them to take action more rapidly. In addition, they should be taking action proactively and not wait for a problem to arise. However, when a problem does arise, Tepco seems to know how to control it and how to prevent more serious damage to the environment, and thus prevent it from getting to the people around them. The fact that they are just getting things under control after nearly three years is just too long. I understand that it is a long process and there are many risks, but they should be working on stabilizing the situation that was left from the 2011 disaster. The situation should be stabilized to a point that they do not make silly mistakes like leaving a valve open that leads to detrimental effects. Tepco is seen as the expert here and the fact that they are still having problems due to avoidable errors is ridiculous. While cleaning up from the damage that occurred from the tsunami, they should not be accidentally leaving valves open that leak 100 tons of highly contaminated water. Tepco is also criticized for their lack of public communication. Maybe if they open up that line of communication the public will be more aware of the situation and understand more about what is happening. I'm no expert on nuclear power plants getting hit by tsunamis, but I do not believe the general public is either. 

View the full story at NYtimes here

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