In the latest of a now seemingly endless series of devastating, embarrassing debacles at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, operating utility Tepco has found that radiation levels in seawater directly adjacent to one of the damaged reactors have hit a two-year high. Tepco reports the radiation spike is due to construction work they have undertaken to reduce the chance of leaks from spreading into the nearby port, which connects to the Pacific Ocean.
The construction work is taking place around Fukushima’s damaged No.2 reactor, where the company is injecting a complex of chemicals into the ground so as to toughen the soil on the sea-side of the reactors. Their hope is that this will prevent radioactive leaks from seeping through the ground and into the sea. However, the pressure of pumping these chemicals into the ground dislodged contaminated soil and pushed it out into the sea.
TEPCO’s results show that seawater by Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged No.2 reactor spiked to 1,200 becquerels per liter on Wednesday. The plant was devastated by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, and the most recent levels of of radioactivity are the highest recorded in the last two years—they are also thirteen times higher than the levels recorded on Tuesday of this week.
Reuters reports that “Cesium-134 readings were 370 becquerels per liter while Cesium-137 was 830/liter within a silt fence right outside the reactor building.” And for reference: “Regulatory limits for Cesium, which emits a strong gamma radiation and is harmful to the human body, is 90 bq/liter for Cesium-137 and 60 bq/liter for Cesium-134.”
Quite how such a mistake could be made perhaps defies comprehension, but it is only the latest in a long series of mistakes at Fukushima Daiichi. Just this past Tuesday workers mistakenly disconnected a pipe from a treatment system, leaking ten tonnes of radioactive water, and dousing six. Last week the company reported a leak of 110 gallons of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.
A recent report by the IAEA found that it will take at least 40 years to clean up the site, and the Japanese government has stepped in to provide assistance, while demanding a timeline for the clean up and complete shutdown of the facility. But as Tepco and its workers continues to make mistakes that contribute to further environmental damage in the region, it remains to be seen how long they can retain any confidence semblance from the public or the government.