Beleaguered Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that it will drain two previously relocated storage tanks filled with radioactive water to prevent more massive leaks at the crippled nuclear plant.
Earlier this week, Tepco said around 300 tons of radioactive water had likely escaped from one of the nearly 1,000 tanks used to store water used to cool the melted fuel in the broken reactors.
The episode was dubbed the most serious since the plant entered the first throes of the triple meltdown crisis in 2011 after being rocked by the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Tepco said the tank to be drained is one of three that were relocated from their original location because of apparently unreported ground subsidence in the area, meaning the tanks were not on solid ground.
Tepco has not yet pinpointed the source of the leak in the first tank, but there are fears the act of moving them may be connected with the incident, which was rated Level 3 of the International Nuclear Event Scale.
Hapless Tepco has thus decided to drain the other two tanks that were moved, starting Sunday, a company official said.
Nuclear inspectors who went to tour the crippled plant after the leak was reported declared on Friday that the handling of water storage at the site was “sloppy”.
The meltdowns of March 2011 were rated Level Seven on the INES scale, parting on a par with the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, which up to that time had been the world’s most serious nuclear incident.
More than two years since the crisis began, however, it has become apparent that Tepco is stumbling badly with the clean-up, which is expected to take around four decades, and that the water crisis is threatening to generate another environmental disaster.
The continuing mishaps, often accompanied by a perceived unwillingness to publicly reveal the extent of the problems, is leading to a growing chorus warning of the need for outside experts to step in and take control of the operation.
Critics say the utility — which has been effectively nationalized — is not up to the task.