New reports from Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) remind us that Fukushima's nuclear plant is far from fixed two years after the country was hit by an earthquake and resulting tsunami.
High levels of a toxic radioactive isotope have been found in groundwater at the plant, with tests showing Strontium-90 present at 30 times the legal rate. Tritium, another radioactive isotope, has been detected at elevated levels as well.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit the city and its power plant in March 2011 is considered to be one of the world's worst nuclear accidents, only the second disaster to measure a "Level 7" on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Three of the Fukushima plant's reactors suffered meltdowns. Two years later, officials are still struggling to stabilize the site.
Earlier this year, the plant faced three power failures in five weeks. This month, officials also found radioactive water leaking from one of the storage tanks on site.
Tepco wants to pump groundwater from the plant into the sea, but the most recent news on how toxic the plant remains may slow those plans. Tepco official Toshihiko Fukuda, in a BBC report, says that ocean water samples show no rise in toxic substances and that Tepco believes the groundwater is being contained by concrete foundations. "When we look at the impact that is having on the ocean," Fukuda tells the BBC, "the levels seem to be within past trends and so we don't believe it's having an effect."
But Tepco is running out of storage space for the large amounts of the water they use to cool the plant. According to the BBC, 400 tons of groundwater flow into the reactor buildings every day. Tepco has built 12 relief wells near the site in hopes of stopping the contamination.
Below, via Reuters, a look at the Fukushima plant and some of the nearby towns still suffering the aftereffects of the 2011 earthquake:
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