Workers at the Fukushima No. 1 plant are struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water used to cool its crippled reactors, the manager of the water treatment team said.
About 200,000 tons of radioactive water — enough to fill more than 50 Olympic swimming pools — are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the complex. Tokyo Electric Power Co. has already felled trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will more than triple in three years.
"It's a pressing issue because our land is limited and we would eventually run out of storage space," the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told AP.
Tepco is close to starting a new treatment system that could make the water safe enough to discharge into the ocean. But its tanks are filling up in the meantime, mostly because cracks in reactor buildings are allowing groundwater in.
Experts worry the highly radioactive water could have a lasting impact on the environment, and fear that because of the reactor leaks and water flowing from one part of the facility to another, this is already happening.
Nuclear engineer and college lecturer Masashi Goto said the contaminated water buildup poses a long-term health and environmental threat. He worries the radioactive water in the reactor buildings' basements may already be seeping into the groundwater system, where it could travel far beyond the plant and possibly into public water supplies and the Pacific.
"You never know where it's leaking out and once it's out you can never put it back in place," he said. "It's just outrageous and shows how big a disaster the accident is."