Japan's Radiation Woes Persist

A radioactive water leak in Japan has been plugged, but problems persist as scientists fight to keep a nuclear plant stable.

Chana Ya'ar, | updated: 14:38

Stricken Japanese Reactors
Stricken Japanese Reactors
Israel news photo: Wikipedia

At least one leak into the Pacific Ocean of radioactive water from Japan's stricken nuclear complex has been plugged, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). But the good news is being overshadowed by the fact that nearby coastal waters have already been contaminated.

A sample of seawater near the facility was found to contain iodine 131 at 7.5 million times the legal limit. Other samples contained radioactive cesium at 1.1 million times the legal limit. A fish caught Tuesday about 43 miles from the plant was discovered to contain high levels of radioactive iodine 131, according to Japanese government officials. Prior to that, fish caught Friday before the company began flushing thousands of tons of low-level radioactive water into the Pacific was found to contain 4,080 becquerels of iodine 131 per kilogram. The flushed water contains about 100 times the legal radiation limit.

Fishing has been banned near the nuclear plant and in fact, most fishing in the region has ended due to earthquake and tsunami damage to the boats and ports. Company financial compensation could run into the billions of dollars, as the market for fish consumption drops dramatically with fears of radioactive contamination.

The flushing makes room for engineers to flood storage containers with more highly contaminated runoff water used to cool off overheated reactors and spent fuel rod pools. This more contaminated water contains approximately 10,000 times the legal radiation limit, government officials told reporters.

A confidential assessment by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission obtained by The New York Times has also given a grim warning that some threats from the plant could persist, possibly indefinitely. The report, dated March 26, was prepared for the commission's Reactor Safety Team and was based on the “most recent available data” from TEPCO, the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, the U.S. Dept. of Energy, General Electric (the type of reactor used in Japan) and the Electric Power Research Institute.

It noted there is increased stress being placed on the containment structures around the reactors as they fill with cooling water. This makes them even more vulnerable to rupture in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and subsequent aftershocks. Moreover, the release of hydrogen and oxygen inside the containment structures from seawater that was used to cool the reactors could also lead to explosions. In addition, the salt buildup from the seawater, and partially melted fuel rods, are blocking the flow of freshwater intended to cool the reactor cores.

Israelis Bringing Relief
Meanwhile, an Israeli delegation is bringing relief in a number of ways. Aid includes humanitarian supplies, medical expertise and food shipments – but IDF personnel are also working with the children as well.

The IDF aid delegation to Japan took a quick break over the weekend to entertain local children from Minamisanriku who have experienced deep losses from the disaster.

Delegation members used the international language of soccer to play a game with the children that cheered up both teams. Other IDF aid team members colored drawings with younger Japanese youth.

Prior to and following the games, the IDF officers helped transfer the area's residents from residential population aid centers to temporary housing. The residents will stay in the temporary units until their homes, which were destroyed by the tsunami, are completely rebuilt.