Patrick J. Kiger
National Geographic News
Published August 7, 2013
“Tensions are rising in Japan over radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean from Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a breach that has defied the plant operator’s effort to gain control.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday called the matter “an urgent issue” and ordered the government to step in and help in the clean-up, following an admission by Tokyo Electric Power Company that water is seeping past an underground barrier it attempted to create in the soil. The head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority task force told Reuters the situation was an ’emergency.’. . .
“But most experts seem to think that ordinary movement of groundwater probably is the real culprit. An estimated 400 tons (95,860 gallons/ 362,870 liters) of water streams into the basements of the damaged reactors each day. Keeping that water from continuing to flow into the ocean is crucial. As the IAEA noted in its report, ‘the accumulation of enormous amounts of liquids due to the continuous intrusion of underground water into the reactor and turbine buildings is influencing the stability of the situation.’
‘Big surprise—water does flow downhill,’ said Dr. Janette Sherman, a medical expert on radiation and toxic exposure who once worked as a chemist for the Atomic Energy Commission, the forerunner of today’s U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. ‘If you’ve ever had a leak in your house during a storm, you know how hard it is to contain water. There’s a lot of water going into the plant, and it’s got to go someplace. It’s very hard to stop this.’”