With nowhere else to put it and workers constantly being exposed to it, radiation from the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility in Japan has been ordered to be dumped into the ocean by Japanese regulators, according to new reports. This was just two days after a plant employee accidentally fell into one of the onsite storage tanks filled with radioactive water, resulting in his death.
According to the Star Tribune, the 55-year-old man died of multiple injuries after falling through an opening at the top of the 10-meter (33-foot) high tank. He was one of three men who was inspecting the tank at the time of the fall.
Following the incident, Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority met to discuss options for disposing of the radioactive waste, which continues to pose health threats at the facility. The Wall Street Journal reports that the regulatory body's chairman isn't pleased with the way the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has handled the disaster, which continues to wreak havoc.
Japanese regulators suggest that TEPCO start disposing of radioactive water in 2017
A draft recommendation was made at the meeting that proposes a 2017 start date for discharging the water. That proposal is expected to receive approval within the next week. More than one year ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency made the recommendation to TEPCO that it begin releasing small amounts of low-level tritium-contaminated water in a controlled manner so that it could focus on other problems at the plant.
But the power operator has yet to take action, which has resulted in massive contamination of local groundwater. Reports indicate that up to 400 tons of highly contaminated water is added to the site every day, an insurmountable level that will only make it that much worse to clean up in the future.
TEPCO's water purification process can't remove tritium; operator running out of room for storage tanks
TEPCO is currently trying to remove radioactive material from the tainted water before dumping it into the ocean. But the system it currently has in place to do this is unable to remove radioactive tritium, which is why the power operator has begun moving the water into large storage tanks onsite.
There are currently about 1,000-and-counting storage tanks at the facility, but TEPCO is quickly running out of space to add more. Besides this, TEPCO is having to continue working towards removing spent fuel rods and replacing cooling equipment to prevent further problems at the plant, which show no signs of relent.
Worker injuries increasing at Fukushima, suggesting sloppier safety measures
The plant's decommissioning process, which is expected to take several decades, currently involves some 7,000 workers laboring day and night to get things under control. Between April and November of 2014, however, there were 40 injuries at the plant compared to 12 the year prior, suggesting that safety measures are degrading.
"He was wearing a harness, but the hook was found tucked inside the harness," explained a TEPCO spokesman to reporters about the tank fall incident. "This means the harness was not being used. We are investigating whether safety measures were appropriately observed."
Earlier in 2014, another Fukushima worker died after being buried in earth and rubble while trying to dig a hole at the site.