More toxic water has leaked from Japan's faulty Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The 100-ton leak is the worst since August, when a 300-ton spill caused the country's nuclear agency to raise the threat level posed by the accident. But Tepco doesn't want anyone to worry about it.
Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono issued an apology for "worrying the public with such a leak," adding:
Water is unlikely to have reached the ocean as there is no drainage in that tank area. We are now in the process of recovering the leaked water and the earth it has contaminated.
The contaminated water is highly irradiated, testing at 230 million becquerels (the metric used to measure radioactivity) per liter. Drinking water should not contain more than 10 million becquerels per liter, per the World Health Organization. The New York Times reports that roughly half of the particles in the contaminated water is probably strontium-90, a toxin that is easily absorbed and is a carcinogen.
According to Tepco, the toxic water was apparently pumped into a holding container that was already full, after an employee left a pair of valves open by mistake. It's unlikely that the water reached the ocean. Tepco has been struggling to figure out how to deal with fallout from Fukushima since it was damaged during an earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2011. Though the government announced in August that it would take over the power plant's cleanup from Tepco, the company is still largely in charge of figuring out how to deal with continuous leaks. The New York Times explains just how hard that is:
Tepco has struggled to deal with the hundreds of tons of groundwater that seeps each day into the plant’s damaged reactor buildings, where it is contaminated by the melted nuclear reactor cores. To keep the radioactive water from running into the Pacific, the company must pump it out of the reactor buildings and store it in rows of huge tanks it has erected on the plant’s grounds. So far, Tepco said, about 340,000 tons of water has accumulated in the tanks, enough to fill more than 135 Olympic-size swimming pools. A ton of water is equivalent to about 240 gallons.
And hard as Tepco may be trying, it's not doing very good job. The company has come under fire for mishandling the cleanup from the get-go, keeping their plan under wraps, failing to report leaks for months and encouraging employees to work under dangerous conditions. We're guessing another massive spill, caused by human error, won't do anything to clean up their image.