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More leaks found at crippled Japan nuclear plant

By Mari Yamaguchi

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 07:57 a.m. HST, Feb 04, 2012

TOKYO >> Leaks of radioactive water have become more frequent at Japan's crippled nuclear power plant less than two months after it was declared basically stable.

The problem underlines the continuing challenges facing Tokyo Electric Power Co. as it attempts to keep the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant under control. A massive earthquake and tsunami badly damaged the plant last March, resulting in the melting of three reactor cores.

Workers spotted a leak Friday at a water reprocessing unit which released enough beta rays to cause radiation sickness, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto said. He said no one was injured and the leak stopped after bolts were tightened on a tank.

Matsumoto said TEPCO also found that 8.5 tons of radioactive water had leaked earlier in the week after a pipe became detached at Unit 4, one of the plant's six reactors. The company earlier had estimated that only a few gallons (liters) had leaked.

He said officials are investigating the cause of that leak, but that it was unlikely the pipe had been loosened by the many aftershocks that have hit the plant.

The structural integrity of the damaged Unit 4 reactor building has long been a major concern among experts because a collapse of its spent fuel cooling pool could cause a disaster worse than the three reactor meltdowns.

Cold winter weather has also caused water inside pipes to freeze elsewhere at the plant, resulting in leaks in at least 30 locations since late January, Matsumoto said.

Officials have not detected any signs of radioactive water from the leaks reaching the surrounding ocean. Sandbag walls have been built around problem areas as a precaution.

More than 100,000 people around the plant fled their homes after the disaster due to radiation fears.

The government announced in December that the plant had reached "a cold shutdown condition" and is now essentially stable.

On Monday, six inspectors from the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency will begin an inspection of the plant to ensure its continued stability. They will study the reactors' cooling functions and measures to prevent explosions and nuclear chain reactions, among other steps to keep the plant under control, officials said.

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Changalang wrote:
The half life of the MOX fuel rods that burned in reactor 3 is in the many thousands of years. Believe it or not, civil engineers are seriously talking about a way to move the capitol city further South for the next generation. But, everything in Japan is hush hush. ' Masashi Goto, a reactor researcher and designer for Toshiba, told the Foreign Correspondents Club in Toyko the mixed oxide (MOX) fuel used in unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility uses plutonium, which is “much more toxic than the fuel used in the other reactors.” Goto said that the MOX also has a lower melting point than the other reactor fuels. The Fukushima facility began using MOX fuel in September 2010, becoming the third plant in Japan to do so, according to MOX supplier AREVA. Part of the process of making MOX fuel is to grind plutonium into a fine power before it is robotically inserted into fuel rods. Experts agree these tiny plutonium particles once airborne are extremely dangerous to human health. '
on February 4,2012 | 08:01AM
Changalang wrote:
Addendum: "plutonium-239. Plutonium is not only the most lethal of the four (“extrordinarily toxic” is how Dr. Ira Helfand, a board member for Physicians for Social Responsibility, describes it), it also hangs around the longest. It’s half life is a whopping 24,000 years, and since radioactive contamination is dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of the isotope’s half.life, that means plutonium emitted in Fukushima today will still be around in close to half a million years." (Time(dot)com)
on February 4,2012 | 08:03AM
copperwire9 wrote:
Wow. . . .That info gives added life to the assertion that nuclear power really is the most expensive way to generate electricity, and in reality is infinitely more expensive that we could ever imagine. . . .And on another note, Changalang, I'd just like to thank you for your consistently intelligent commentary to the SAdvertiser's news. I don't always agree with you, but I always pay attention to the information you provide. . . .I really appreciate you being such a good resource.
on February 4,2012 | 08:58AM
Changalang wrote:
Thanks for the comment. For some people fear and retaliation do not work. Somewhere along the way, I accidentally became one of them. Spent too much time reading about the Founding Fathers. Others here should know that this is not a safe outlet to express free thought and remain anonymous by. Truth telling can be contagious and I do not want others infected to take things too far without knowing that Hawaii does have an unwritten rule of truth and consequences. Not saying S.A. does not honor its privacy policy; just saying choice of truth telling here can have consequences. Every culture's weakness is its strong point. The culture sticks together which makes it averse to telling the real truth vs. the group think cleared narrative. Our island culture can advance if more people challenge the status quo and let her rip. Our island gov't and Japan's corporate/crony capitalist gov't are intimately intertwined. Not that it is a bad thing.
on February 4,2012 | 11:04AM
OldDiver wrote:
Reporter: How much radiation has leaked from the leaking nuclear plant?..... TEPCO spokesman: *Holding his fingers about an inch apart* About this much...... Reporter: How much is that?..... TEPCO spokesman: *Holding his fingers about an inch apart* I told you this much...... Reporter: Does this leaks present a danger to the community?..... TEPCO spokesman: No, in fact according to Republican TV (Fox News) frequent guess Ann Coulter a little radiation is good for you.
on February 4,2012 | 09:00AM
Changalang wrote:
Every one of us on Earth are carrying around a very little particle of Fukushima in us now. Just the facts.
on February 4,2012 | 11:27AM
hawaiikone wrote:
it's all Bush's fault...
on February 4,2012 | 05:37PM
kona1069 wrote:
This won't be the end. Leaks will continue for years, since there is no containment.
on February 4,2012 | 09:21AM
entrkn wrote:
TEPCO should switch to thorium powered reactors.
on February 4,2012 | 01:24PM
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