Tepco, the firm which runs the Fukushima nuclear plant, has discovered radioactive water is seeping into the ground around the power station. The leak was discovered yesterday by an employee, the firm said in a statement, and has been categorized as a Level 1 leak on the INES (International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale), which is the lowest threat level. The news comes just four weeks after the news that contaminated water was already present in the man-made harbor surrounding the plant.
This warning is the first time the country has declared an incident on the INES scale since the disaster. To put the scale into perspective, Level 0 means no safety significance, Levels 1-3 are seen as an incident, while 4-7 are "accidents." Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tepco, says, "we found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour."
Tepco, short for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, is not known for its transparency over safety issues surrounding the plant, which was crippled in the tsunami two and a half years ago. Its admission last month was followed by more detail from the head of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, that 300 tons of contaminated water was entering the ocean every day. This, as National Geographic points out, is enough to fill an Olympic-sized swimming pool every eight days.
The government's new P.M. Shinzo Abe is hoping to restart the country's nuclear energy program—there are 50 nuclear reactors in Japan—in an attempt to balance the books. Pressing the green button in the nuclear control room is seen as a more economically viable option than importing expensive fossil fuels—although there is an alternative plan for using renewables that is thought to be just as sustainable.
[Image: Flickr user Sascha Erni]