The leak is just the latest of many that have occurred at the troubled plant.
Fukushima plant operator TEPCO said on Feb. 20 that about 100 metric tons of contaminated water had spilled from a holding tank into the ground, but that incoming water had been cut off and the leakage had stopped. TEPCO said it does not believe the contaminated water reached the Pacific.
280,000 tons of radioactive water are stored at the site in steel tanks. TEPCO stores about 400 tons of contaminated water daily. About 300 tons of contaminated groundwater seeps daily into the Pacific Ocean via leaks at the plant.
TEPCO on Jan. 6 said it would begin blocking and cleaning damaged underground tunnels believed to be leaking tainted water from reactors into local groundwater aquifers. In Oct. and Dec. 2013, TEPCO said it found the highest levels of radiation in nearby seawater since the initial disaster in 2011.
"Japan has achieved good progress in improving its strategy and in allocating necessary resources… the situation remains very complex… there are still very challenging issues that must be solved." Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA inspection team leader
Plant operator TEPCO started removing 1,533 spent nuclear fuel rods from a storage pool at Fukushima's Reactor 4 on Nov. 18, 2013. The rods must be kept submerged in water at all times. An accident would likely cause the release of radiation.
Reuters reported Dec. 6, 2013, that the Fukushima nuclear plant employed workers hired by a broker and managed by a contractor, which is illegal in Japan. The workers partly constructed tanks that spilled radioactive water. The report was based on interviews with regulators and workers, and examinations of records.
A proposal by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's Liberal Democratic Party on Oct. 30, 2013 said TEPCO should no longer be exclusively responsible for decommissioning the Fukushima plant. It recommends that TEPCO form a new internal unit or a separate company, or join a government agency.
The entire Fukushima cleanup operation is estimated to take 30-40 years and cost $100 billion, in addition to compensation payouts to those affected by the disaster. TEPCO has so far requested $38 billion from the Japanese government to assist with legal claims.
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