TOKYO (AP) – Cooling water levels have dropped in two reactors at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake struck the area last weekend, indicating potential additional damage, its operator said Friday. .
Further damage could further complicate the already difficult process of decommissioning the plant, which is expected to take decades.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Keisuke Matsuo said that the drop in water levels in the Unit 1 and 3 reactors indicates that damage to its primary containment chambers was exacerbated by the magnitude 7 earthquake. 3 on Saturday, allowing more water to seep in.
The leaked water is believed to have remained inside the reactor buildings and there is no indication of any outside impact, he said.
In 2011, a powerful 9.1 magnitude earthquake and tsunami damaged cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, causing three reactor cores to melt and nuclear fuel to fall to the bottom of their primary containment vessels.
TEPCO will monitor the water and temperatures at the bottom of the containment vessels, Matsuo said.
Since the 2011 disaster, cooling water has been constantly leaking from damaged primary containment vessels into the basements of the reactor buildings. To make up for the loss, additional cooling water has been pumped into the reactors to cool the remaining molten fuel. The recent decline in water levels indicates that more water is leaking than before, TEPCO said.
More than 180 people received mostly minor injuries from Saturday’s earthquake, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The earthquake also led to landslides, damage to homes and a high-speed rail line, and led to widespread disruptions to water and power supplies.
TEPCO initially reported that there were no anomalies at the plant since Saturday’s earthquake.
Matsuo said the cooling water level dropped as low as 70 centimeters (27 inches) in the primary containment chamber of the Unit 1 reactor and about 30 centimeters (11 inches) in Unit 3. TEPCO was unable to determine any decrease in the Unit 2 because the indicators have been removed to prepare for the removal of melted debris, he said.
Increased leaks could require more cooling water to be pumped into the reactors, resulting in more polluted water being treated and stored in huge tanks at the plant. TEPCO says its storage capacity of 1.37 million tonnes will be full next summer. A government panel’s recommendation that the sea be gradually released has faced fierce opposition from local residents and a decision is still pending.
Meanwhile, the Tokyo High Court on Friday held the government and TEPCO responsible for the 2011 nuclear disaster, ordering both to pay about 280 million yen ($ 2.6 million) in compensation to more than 40 plaintiffs forced to evacuate to Chiba, near Tokyo. for their lost livelihoods and homes.
Friday’s decision reverses an earlier ruling by the Chiba district court that excluded the government from liability. Judge Yukio Shirai said the government could have anticipated the risk of a massive tsunami and taken action after a long-term assessment in 2002 of seismic activities.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs welcomed the decision and said it would affect other pending cases.
“The case raises the question of whether we should tolerate a society that prioritizes economic activities over people’s lives and health,” said Izutaro Mangi, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs.