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TEPCO Reports Radioactive Water Leak; May Have Flowed Into Pacific

4/5/2012 6:30 AM ET

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, has revealed that about 12 tons of radioactive water has leaked from a water treatment pipe at the plant.

Media reports quoting TEPCO said it found water contaminated with radioactive strontium leaking from a water treatment pipe on Thursday morning.

TEPCO said that a large portion of it might have flowed into the Pacific Ocean.

The water leaked in a process to reduce radioactive cesium so it can be recycled for use as a coolant. However, the water-treatment system in Fukushima plant is not capable of removing strontium.

The company claimed that the leak had been plugged, and that it was investigating the cause of the accident and the quantity of the leaked water that contained a radioactive substance that can cause cancer. TEPCO has also apologized over the incident.

Low levels of strontium were found in soil samples in and around the quake-wrecked nuclear power plant last year. Inhaled strontium tends to accumulate in bones and is carcinogenic.

A magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 knocked out the plant's emergency power supply equipment, which was needed to cool its reactors and spent-fuel storage pools.

High-level radiation leak and meltdowns following explosions and fires triggered by the tremor forced TEPCO to scrap four of its six reactors.

About 48,000 families who lived within a 30-kilometer radius of the stricken plant were forced to evacuate under government orders over radiation fears. It is estimated that the disaster released large amount of radioactive caesium into the atmosphere, reaching 40 percent of the total from Chernobyl nuclear accident. Access is denied to 20 kilometers around the plant.

The dual disaster that killed more than 12,000 people and left over 15000 others missing across a swath of north-eastern Japan was a further blow to a country with the world's largest public debt.

The latest in a series of radioactive water leaks at the disabled plant comes more than three months after Japan claimed that its engineers had brought the plant to a stable "cold shutdown condition," and that the accident at the plant itself has been settled.

Cold shutdown is defined as a condition in which water that cools nuclear fuel rods remains below boiling point, meaning that the fuel cannot reheat, as exposure from the release of radioactive substances is being significantly contained.

by RTT Staff Writer

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