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Japan's PM Calls Radioactive Fukushima Groundwater an 'Urgent Problem,' Says Gov Will Step In

Aug 07, 2013 10:35 AM EDT

Contaminated water is leaking from the drainage systems of Japan's crippled Fukushima power station at a rate fast enough to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool in one week. The water, which is used to keep the power station's broken nuclear reactors cooled to a stable temperature, contains high levels of radioactive substances.

The situation is being called an "urgent problem" by Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has called for the government to step in and assist with the situation, as the public trust in the power station's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), continues to dwindle.

Water leaking through cracks in underground drainage tunnels beneath the Fukushima Dai-chi power station has measured 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter, according to Russia Today, which cited Tepco's figures. Radiation levels were roughly the same about one months after the March 2011 disaster took place, according to Russia Today. The normal level is 150 becquerels of cesium per liter.

As much as 300 metric tons of water is leaking out of the planet every day, Reuters reports, adding that the revelation is further evidence that Tepco has yet to grasp the severity of the situation at the beleaguered nuclear power station. Tepco only recently admitted that there way any water leaking at all.

The water leaking from the drainage system is seeping into the area's groundwater. Some of the water is reaching the Pacific Ocean, but it is not clear how much or exactly what threat it poses. If enough water seeps into the ground for levels to rise to the surface, runoff into the ocean will intensify.

Japan's Asahi Shimbun, a national daily newspaper, reported last week that it could take as few as three three weeks for the water to rise to the surface.

Earlier this week, in an exclusive interview with Reuters, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, said that when the water reaches the surface, "it would flow extremely fast."

Kinjo also criticized Tepco, saying its "sense of crisis is weak" and that the utility alone could not handle the ongoing disaster. Tepco's credibility has also been dented by criticisms of inadequate disaster preparation before the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami overcame the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station and repeated attempts to cover-up or downplay its shortcoming managing the crisis at its facility.

"It is an urgent problem," Prime Minister Abe said. "We will not leave this to Tepco, but put together a government strategy. We will direct Tepco to make sure there is a swift and multi-faceted approach in place."

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