How much radioactive waste has leaked into the pacific ocean?

Japanese ship Damaged

Photo of Japanese ship damaged by the tsunami.Photo by U.S. Air Force

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) said thousands of gallons of highly radioactive water has leaked from an underground pool at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant and may have seeped into the soil.

Tepco estimates about 120 tons (32,280 gallons) of radioactive water has escaped, company spokesman Daisuke Hirose said, adding it was uncertain how much contaminated water has soaked into the soil. While he said the utility plans to complete pumping the remaining water to other underground pools by April 9, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority today said “a small quantity” of radioactive water may be leaking from another tank.

The leak is the latest stumble in efforts to stabilize the plant after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. Tepco continues to inject water into the damaged reactors to cool them, and the leaked water contains about 710 billion becquerels of radiation, the most since the facility reached a stable state known as cold shutdown in December 2011, Hirose said.

Any leakage is unlikely to have reached the ocean as the underground pool is about 800 meters (0.5 mile) away from the tank, Hirose said, adding that Tepco is investigating the cause of the leakage.

A cooling system for one of the spent fuel pools temporarily stopped on April 5, and the plant lost power on March 18 after a rat caused an electrical short-circuit, the company said.

About 276,000 tons of highly radioactive water is stored in tanks at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, according to Tepco’s latest data. That’s enough to fill about 110 Olympic-sized swimming pools, according to Bloomberg News calculations.

This article was written by Tsuyoshi Inajima for Bloomberg Tokyo – (c) 2013 Bloomberg

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