Japan Dumps Nuke Water In Sea

Japan has started dumping more than 10,000 tonnes of radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific.

The government insists the water is contaminated with only low levels of radiation and is not harmful to humans.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) started dumping the water yesterday, saying a total of 11,500 tonnes would be released into the Pacific.

The company insists the radiation poses no threat to marine life and says it would still be safe to eat seafood caught in the area.

But a TEPCO official fought back tears when he announced the step, saying: “We have already caused such pain and nuisance to local residents. We cannot express how sorry we are to have to impose another burden.”

Prime minister Naoto Kan’s top spokesman, Yukio Edano, said in a televised press conference: “We have no choice but to release water tainted with radioactive materials into the ocean as a safety measure.”

As a result of the massive water dumping operations, “highly radioactive waste water has accumulated at turbine buildings at Fukushima Daiichi, especially at the reactor unit two,” said another TEPCO official.

“There is a need to release already stored water in order to accept the additional waste water” totalling 10,000 tonnes, as well as 1,500 tonnes of water from pits under reactor units five and six, he said.

Meanwhile emergency crews are still trying to plug a crack in a concrete pit near Fukushima’s reactor number two, using a colour dye to trace the source of a radioactive leak which is releasing thousands of litres of contaminated water every day.

The workers were using concrete but are now using a mixture of sawdust, shredded paper and a polymer capable of absorbing 50 times its own volume in water.

“We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers [nappies] but are yet to see a visible effect,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Contamination from the plant has been found in the air, ground, seawater and, at lower concentrations, in regional produce including vegetables, dairy products, beef and, most recently, shiitake mushrooms.

The nuclear emergency – which has in many ways overshadowed the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that killed 12,020 people and left 15,512 missing – has also hit the economy hard, sending stocks reeling and hitting manufacturing output.

The government is considering asking manufacturers to start work an hour earlier than usual to ease electricity demand during the summer, when air conditioner use peaks, Kyodo news agency reported.

In Vienna, UN International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano said the disaster “has enormous implications for nuclear power and confronts all of us with a major challenge”.

“The worries of millions of people throughout the world about whether nuclear energy is safe must be taken seriously,” Mr Amano said in an opening address to a special conference on nuclear safety.

But Mr Amano insisted that the basic drivers behind interest in nuclear power – global energy demand, concerns about climate change, volatile fossil fuel prices and energy security – “have not changed as a result of Fukushima”.

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