Japanese officials upgrade danger of Fukushima radioactive leak

By Park Sae-jin Posted : August 22, 2013, 15:22 Updated : August 22, 2013, 15:22
Japan‘s nuclear agency has upgraded the severity level of a radioactive water leak at the Fukushima plant, from one to three on an international scale. Highly radioactive water was found to be leaking from a storage tank into the ground at the plant on Monday. It was first classified as a level one incident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).

However, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority proposes elevating it to level three on the seven-point scale. Japanese reports say it is a provisional move that had to be confirmed with the IAEA, the UN‘s nuclear agency.

This week is the first time that Japan has declared an event on the Ines scale since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The move was announced in a document on the agency’s website and was subsequently approved at a weekly meeting of the regulatory body.

Shares of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company fell as much as 13% to 537 yen as investors worried about the impact of the development.

There have been leaks of water in the past but this one is being seen as the most serious to date, because of the volume - 300 tons of radioactive water, according to Tepco - and high levels of radioactivity in the water. Japan‘s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said it feared the disaster was “in some respects” beyond Tepco’s ability to cope.

He said Tepco had failed to spot the leak for days - maybe weeks - despite patrols that are supposed to check each storage tank twice every day. Workers had also left a tap open in the safety barrier that surrounds the base of the leaking storage tank. That had allowed highly toxic water to trickle away into the ground. Latest reports from the plant suggest some of it may already have reached the nearby Pacific Ocean.

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