Workers At Japan Plant Pump Radioactive Water Into Ocean

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In Japan Monday, workers at the disabled nuclear power plant started to pump moderately radioactive water into the ocean in order to make room for water that's more severely contaminated.


In Japan today, workers at the disabled nuclear power plant started to pump moderately radioactive water into the ocean. The effort is meant to make room at the facility for water that's more severely contaminated.

NPR's Richard Harris has the latest.

RICHARD HARRIS: Repair workers can't fully restore the power plant's cooling systems until they can get rid of water that's been pooling up in tunnels and ditches in and around the power plants. They pumped some of that water into holding tanks, but they ran out of space there. So now, they're starting to pump this fluid out into the ocean. It's enough water to fill about five Olympic swimming pools.

Most of the radioactive material in the water is an isotope called iodine-131, which, fortunately, doesn't last very long. It will essentially decay away to nothing in the next few months. Of course, in the meantime, fish and seaweed can take it up, so there are restrictions on harvesting seafood from the area.

Japanese officials apologized for having to dump radioactive material into the ocean, but they hope the maneuver will allow them to contain more severely contaminated water they also have to contend with.

Richard Harris, NPR News.

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