Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

New leak of radioactive water found

Japanese nuclear safety workers attempt to clean up after radioactive sea water was discovered near the Fukushima plant (AP)
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, centre, walks past the rubble in Rikuzentakata, northern Japan (AP)
The maintenance pit of Unit 2 reactor at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear nuclear power plant contains concrete to prevent further leaks (AP)

More highly radioactive water has spilled into the sea from a tsunami-disabled nuclear plant and authorities struggled to seal the leak.

Meanwhile, frustrated survivors of last month's disaster complained that Japan's government was paying too much attention to the nuclear crisis.

The contaminated water will quickly dissipate into the sea and is not expected to cause any health hazard, but pooling water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has hampered the work of technicians trying to stabilise the complex's reactors. Pouring concrete has so far failed to fill the crack.

Word of the leak came as Prime Minister Naoto Kan toured the town of Rikuzentakata, his first trip to survey damage in one of the dozens of villages, towns and cities slammed by the March 11 tsunami that followed a magnitude-9.0 earthquake.

"The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims. Both deserve attention," said 35-year-old Megumi Shimanuki, who was visiting her family at a community centre converted into a shelter in hard-hit Natori, about 100 miles from Rikuzentakata.

The double disaster is believed to have left nearly 25,000 dead - 11,800 confirmed. More than 165,000 are still living in shelters, and tens of thousands more still do not have electricity or running water.

Although the government had rushed to provide relief, its attention has been divided by the efforts to stabilise the Fuskushima plant, which suffered heavy damage and has spiralled into the world's worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 meltdown at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.

The plant's reactors overheated to dangerous levels after electrical pumps - deprived of power - failed to circulate water to keep them cool. A series of almost daily problems have led to substantial amounts of radiation leaking into the atmosphere, ground and sea.

On Saturday, workers discovered an 8-inch crack in a maintenance pit, from which water containing levels of radioactive iodine far above the legal limit was spilling into the Pacific, said Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama.

The utility that runs a tsunami-crippled Japanese nuclear power plant said two workers, aged 21 and 24, were killed when the wave swept ashore. Tokyo Electric Power Co's announcement is the first confirmation of deaths at the plant. The workers had been missing since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said the bodies were found Wednesday and had to be decontaminated.

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