US experts: significant water contamination in Japan

Mon Mar 28, 2011 8:36pm GMT
 

* Significant contamination of surface water, sea water seen

* Ocean dilution mitigates risk to marine organisms

* Exact health impact hard to assess without more data

By Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent

WASHINGTON, March 28 (Reuters) - Groundwater, reservoirs and sea water around Japan's earthquake damaged nuclear plant face "significant contamination" from the high levels of radiation leaking from the plant, a worrying development that heightens potential health risks in the region.

Nuclear and environmental scientists in the United States darkened their assessment of the risks markedly on Monday after operators at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant said that highly radioactive water has entered underground concrete tunnels extending beyond the reactor.

Sea water and fresh water used to cool the reactors, critically damaged by Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami, and spent fuel pools at the plant have been put in storage tanks there. But reports indicate these tanks are full or over-flowing with tainted water, experts said.

"It's just hard to see how this won't result in significant contamination of, certainly, sea water," said Edwin Lyman, a physicist and expert on nuclear plant design at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists.

"There will be dilution, some of that will be reconcentrated, but I don't think this can be sugar-coated at this point."   Continued...

 
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