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The Nuclear Mess at Fukushima

The Tokyo Electric Power company is apologizing to nearby residents once again as tons of radioactive water leak from its busted tanks.
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Anti-nuclear power plant rally at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

Anti-nuclear power plant rally at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden. (PHOTO: PUBLIC DOMAIN)

While the world sweats over nuclear mongering from a certain Chicago Bulls-loving dictator, a very real nuclear mess is happening in Japan. Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has announced that a storage tank at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, a victim of the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in the area, has a suspected leak. If this leak is confirmed, that will make three leaks at the plant since just this past Saturday. In addition to this, the plant has experienced two power outages that shut down a portion of the cooling systems used for spent fuel ponds. Two years and a month after the plant was first ravaged by natural disasters, causing 160,000 residents to evacuate, Tepco finds itself once again apologizing to the people of Fukushima.

The power company estimates that up to 120 tons leaked from one tank, while two others released a smaller amount of radioactive water. The purpose of the underground tanks is to store the water used to cool melted fuel rods at the plant's reactors. In his recent piece for Pacific Standard, "Who Wants the Nuclear Waste?," Bruce Barcott describes fuel rods as “14-foot-long metal tubes about the diameter of a pencil that hold stacked pellets of enriched uranium.” When the bundled groups of rods can no longer generate enough heat to run electricity-producing turbines, they’re still radioactive. And they’ll be radioactive for another 250,000 years.

Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono admitted that the Fukushima underground tanks are not reliable, but “we must keep using some of them that are relatively in good shape.” They simply don’t have enough tanks that can accommodate the water. You know, that radioactive water. In the tanks that are in relatively good shape. And while the water “may” have leaked into the ground, Tepco offers a silver lining: at least the water has not reached the sea! The remaining mollusks along the Fukushima Prefecture must be bubbling a sweet sigh of relief.