The danger from Fukushima continues to grow.
On Wednesday, more than 100 tons of radioactive water leaked from a storage tank at the Japanese nuclear power plant that was damaged after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The tank apparently overflowed because somebody forgot to close a valve, a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) told the media. The open valve caused the tank to fill up and water to flow out onto the ground. The site of the leak was just 700 yards from the Pacific Ocean.
“Water is unlikely to have reached the ocean as there is no drainage in that tank area,” plant spokesman Masayuki Ono claimed.
The utility only became aware of the leak because a worker spotted water dripping out of a pipe. The leak should further concern Americans and Canadians because there have been reports that radiation from Fukushima has reached the West Coast. Off the Grid News reported that an unidentified man had detected high levels of radiation with a Geiger counter on a beach south of San Francisco in December. Local government officials deny there is a problem, The Half Moon Bay Review reported.
Scientist: radiation levels could increase across Pacific
Radiation from Fukushima could get stronger as it crosses the Pacific in currents, some scientists are warning. Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the GEOMAR Research Center for Marine Geosciences believe Fukushima radiation that reaches the West Coast could be 10 times stronger than when it left Japan.
The radiation is getting stronger because it is becoming more concentrated and not diluted by currents, a study published in the scientific journal Science China Earth Sciences claimed. The study’s author, GuiJun Han, predicted that water that reaches the West Coast will contain “pockets and streams of highly concentrated radiation.”
Radiation from Fukushima could eventually cover the entire North Pacific and flow as far south as Baja California in Mexico. The study also predicted that high radiation levels will remain in the Pacific for as long as 10 years.
Other scientists, including Henrietta Dulaiova, an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii, say the study is wrong. Dulaiova believes that the radiation will get diluted in the water as it crosses the Pacific and the danger will decrease.
“This is a bad disaster,” Dulaiova told the Huffington Post. “But I don’t like scientists causing panic in the public.”
Dulaiova did admit that there is a plume of radioactive water crossing the Pacific but she doesn’t think it poses any danger. Officials think the plume should reach the West Coast this year and Hawaii in 2015.
“By now, the plume is so diffused that even if it makes it here, it will be really low levels,” Dulaiova said.
Only the latest danger at Fukushima
The water leak is only the latest danger to surface at Fukushima. Last week Reuters reported that TEPCO had not told officials it had detected dangerous levels of a radioactive isotope called strontium-90 in water near the plant.
The company waited five months to tell Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that it had detected strontium-90 in a well about 25 yards from the ocean in September. That reading was five times higher than a reading taken in July.
“We did not hear about this figure when they detected it last September,” Shinji Kinjo, an official with the regulation authority, said. “We have been repeatedly pushing TEPCO to release strontium data since November. It should not take them this long to release this information.”
Strontium-90 is considered the most dangerous components in the fallout from nuclear weapons. The isotope has been known to cause bone cancer, leukemia and other cancers. It also caused hyperthyroidism and other health problems in the workers who cleaned up the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Soviet Union.