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New Leak At Fukushima Unit 5, Previously Thought Safe (VIDEO)

Fukushima Daiichi I, with early July reactor leak (adapted from TEPCO)(Reactor unit locations highlighted on TEPCO’s website map.)

The Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear power complex at Fukushima 1 has suffered a new and dangerous leak. The flaw is in the fifth reactor unit, not in one of the four originally wrecked in March 2011 in what might still become the world’s worst nuclear accident.

At that time just over three years ago, an offshore level 9 earthquake triggered a massive tsunami that killed 18,000 people in Japan and incapacitated the power plant. Fukushima 1 Reactor Units 5 and 6 were offline at the time of the disaster, but the fuel rods in Unit 5, still loaded in its cooling water pond, now threaten disaster within the next week and a half. (VIDEO here.)

Engineers on the Fukushima site have said that apparently about 1,300 liters of highly radioactive water has leaked from a 3 mm-diameter hole near a cooling system flow valve in Unit 5. The leak forced TEPCO workers at around 12pm on Sunday to shut off the cooling water system that was stabilizing the temperature of the spent fuel rod pool.

Russia Today reports that when the cooling system was switched off, the Unit 5 pool temperature was 23 degrees C and increasing by 0.193 degrees per hour. PressTV adds:

“If the system is not repaired in nine days, temperatures will exceed the dangerous threshold of 65 degrees [C].”

This hotter water would increase the possibility of a dangerous reaction and further radiation leaks in the Fukushima power complex.

TEPCO still remains in crisis at these plants due to leakage from corroded and incompletely sealed tanks, groundwater influx from the nearby hills, planned emergency discharges into the Pacific, and tricky fuel rod removal from the blasted Unit 4 reactor. In addition, the ice wall we reported on in June is not working as well as expected, and the Advanced Liquid Processing System for water purification only went back online several weeks ago after numerous false starts. Also in June, an American company, Kurion Inc., contracted with TEPCO to remove the hazardous strontium that ALPS decontamination cannot address with its own first-of-a-kind, truck-mounted at-tank filtration system.

The debate over resuming nuclear power use in Japan continues at a boil. Current President Shinzō Abe and industry officials favor going nuclear again, but opposing party politicians, other leaders, and a growing number of vocal citizens oppose the measure. Meanwhile, Japan has renewable energy options going full speed ahead.

NOTE ON COVERAGE OF THIS STORY: TEPCO apparently held a news conference on-site on Sunday but has not published the news in English on its website yet. The story originally comes from the RT news network out of Russia, usually the first foreign correspondent to publish Japanese news. An Iranian news outlet quickly picked up the story, and at about 5pm EST on Monday Fox News published it in the US, referencing the RT article. Fox also reports in its headline that the situation “threatens dangerous meltdown.” Neither other US media nor the prominent Japanese media-— Kyodo News press agency, Japan Today (internet), or newspapers (Asahi Shimbun, Nikkei, Japan Times)—-had reported on the situation at time of publication here.

 
 
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covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

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