Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Monday that it has detected radioactive cesium in groundwater samples taken from the premises of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, reversing an earlier announcement that any contamination was negligible.
The announcement came as TEPCO is trying to secure the understanding of local fishermen over the dumping in the Pacific Ocean of groundwater that has been pumped out from wells at the site, saying it has confirmed that concentrations of radioactive substances are sufficiently low.
TEPCO had said radioactive cesium in the groundwater was at a level that could not be detected by an instrument at the Fukushima Daiichi complex. But the same sample was found to contain 0.22 becquerel of cesium-134 and 0.39 becquerel of cesium-137 per liter when checked at the Fukushima Daini plant, where radiation levels are lower.
A possible solution to the increasing amount of contaminated water inside the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant could be to pump groundwater into the sea before it gets into the reactor buildings, as planned by the plant operator, the head of international inspectors has said.
“It will be very nice if they really get to bypass the main building through these systems — through this direct pumping of the water to the sea or whatever it is. Because it is clean water,” Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of a 13-member team of the International Atomic Energy Agency that inspected the plant last month, told Kyodo News in a recent interview.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. has created a system to direct part of the groundwater into the sea before it flows and seeps into the reactor buildings and mixes with highly radioactive water accumulating inside, increasing the amount by 400 tons a day, but has yet to win approval from local fishermen to discharge the water.
Japanese officials are readying a new approach to cooling reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant after discovering an Olympic swimming pool-sized pond of radioactive water in the basement of a unit crippled by the March earthquake and tsunami.
The discovery has forced officials to abandon their original plan to bring under control the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant as they focus on how to deal with the rising pool that some experts see as a threat to groundwater and the Pacific coast.
Despite the setback, Japanese nuclear safety officials and the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), plan to stick to a target of stabilizing the plant and bringing its reactors to a state of "cold shutdown" by January.
Radioactive underwater concentrations in No. 2 reactor at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant have increased 17 times in one week, Russian news agency, Itar-Tass, reported quoting the Japanese nuclear safety agency as saying on Friday. Experts believe the reason is an ongoing leak of contaminated water from the turbine room of the crippled reactor. A total of around 60,000 tonnes of contaminated water is believed to be flooding the basements of the Nos. 1 to 3 reactor turbine buildings as well as trenches connected to them, and the water is hampering work to restore the cooling functions of the reactors lost since the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.