7 Tons Of Radioactive Water an HourPosted: 04 Apr 2011 01:28

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  1. whoosh

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    TOKYO — Workers’ desperate struggle to plug a gush of highly contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, using sawdust, shredded newspaper and an absorbent powder, appeared to be failing early Monday as the radiation threat from the crippled plant continued to spread.
    Water with high amounts of radioactive iodine has been spewing directly into the Pacific Ocean from a large crack discovered Saturday in a six-foot-deep pit at the coastal plant north of Tokyo. The pit is next to the seawater intake pipes at the No. 2 reactor.

    After an unsuccessful attempt to flood the pit with concrete to stop the leak, workers on Sunday turned to trying to plug the apparent source of the water — an underground shaft thought to lead to the damaged reactor building — with more than 120 pounds of sawdust, three garbage bags full of shredded newspaper and about nine pounds of a polymeric powder that officials said absorbed 50 times its volume of water.

    Although the stopgap measure did not appear to be succeeding, workers would keep trying to stem the leak, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

    Early Monday, workers injected a dye into a separate tunnel where contaminated water had been discovered, to determine whether that was the source of the water in the pit, said Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant’s operator. Workers are also expected to continue efforts Monday to stop the leakage from the pit into the ocean.

    Experts estimate that about seven tons an hour of radioactive water is escaping the pit. Safety officials have said that the water, which appears to be coming from the damaged No. 2 reactor, contains one million becquerels per liter of iodine 131, or about 10,000 times the levels normally found in water at a nuclear plant.

    “There is still a steady stream of water from the pit,” Mr. Nishiyama said, but workers would continue to “observe and evaluate” the situation overnight.

    The leak underscores the dangerous side effects of the strategy to cool the plant’s reactors and spent fuel storage pools by pumping them with hundreds of tons of water. While much of that water evaporates, a significant portion also turns into dangerous runoff that has been discovered in various parts of the plant, endangering workers at the plant and hindering repair efforts. On March 24, three workers were injured when they stepped into a pool of radioactive water in one of the plant’s turbine buildings.

    In recent days, workers have tried to clear the contaminated pools, but have struggled to find places to store the water. Meanwhile, higher-than-normal levels of radiation have been detected in waters near the plant, raising fears of damage to sea life.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/04/world ... .html?_r=2
     

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