Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water.
About 200,000 tons of radioactive water used to cool the broken reactors are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
Operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume will more than triple within three years.
“Our land is limited and we could eventually run out of storage space,” said water treatment manager Yuichi Okamura. Tepco’s tanks are filling up mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water to pour in.
Outside experts say that if contaminated water is released, there will be a lasting impact on the environment. And they fear that because of the reactor leaks and water flowing from one part of the plant to another, that may already be happening.
Nuclear engineer Masashi Goto said the contaminated water build-up poses a long-term threat. He said that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant, possibly into the ocean or public water supplies.
“You never know where it’s leaking and once it’s out you can’t put it back,” he said. He added that the Tepco roadmap for dealing with the problem was “wishful thinking.” ”The longer it takes, the more contaminated water they get.”