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article imageDaiichi’s radioactive leak plugged, plant operator reports

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 6, 2011 in Environment
Tokyo - The Daiichi nuclear facility’s troublesome leak of radioactive water into the ocean has been stopped, announced by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), on Wednesday.
TEPCO said it had injected a liquid glass and hardening agent mix into the ground beneath a leaking storage pit at the Daiichi facility on Tuesday. “The leaks were slowed yesterday after we injected a mixture of liquid glass and a hardening agent and it has now stopped,” a company spokesman told Reuters.
The latest news comes after a week-end attempt by the company of using sawdust, newspapers and water absorbent material had failed.
While the news is seen as a breakthrough, there are still the ongoing problems of dealing with massive amounts of radioactive water, decreased storage space for even higher levels of contaminated water, overheating reactors, and as Digital Journal reported earlier on Wednesday, radiation contamination in fish off the coast of Ibaraki prefecture.
Thomas Grieder, Asia analyst at forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, said: “The situation is not under control yet,” according to Al-Jazeera English. “TEPCO's decision to displace the contaminated water into the ocean reflected the urgency of clearing the turbine buildings and trenches of radioactive water so as not to damage equipment needed for restoration of cooling systems,” he added.
The use of liquid glass, or “water glass,” also called sodium silicate, to stop leaks at the plant is seen as a small success. However, the government suggests there may be additional leaks.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “Right now, just because the leak has stopped, we are not relieved yet. We are checking whether the leak has completely stopped, or whether there may be other leaks,” according to BBC News.
The pumping of radioactive water into the ocean continues so that space can be made for highly radioactive water. Officials have stated the toxic water being dumped into the ocean poses no health risks to humans, yet new reports show the suspension of coastal fishing off Ibaraki prefecture, Japan's fifth largest seafood producer.
Elevated levels of radioactive iodine were found on Tuesday in sand lance, a small bottom-feeding fish, at twice the permissible amount for vegetables. Elevated levels of cesium were also found in the fish.
TEPCO’s shares continue to fall as a result of its handling of the still unfolding nuclear crisis, reaching a new low on Wednesday of 337 yen. The company is now facing massive compensation bills but states it must first assess damages before it begins payment compensation.
Tourism to Japan is the latest casualty, with the BBC reporting the number of foreign visitors after the earthquake and tsunami had dropped 75 percent over March 2010 figures.
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