Cooling water levels have fallen in two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake hit the area last weekend, indicating possible additional damage, its operator said Friday. New damage could further complicate the plant’s already difficult decommissioning process, which is expected to take decades. Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Keisuke Matsuo said the drop in water levels in the Unit 1 and 3 reactors indicates that the existing damage to their primary containment chambers was worsened by Saturday’s magnitude 7.3 quake, allowing more water to leak. The leaked water is believed to have remained inside the reactor buildings and there is no sign of any outside impact, he said.
Matsuo said the cooling water level fell as much 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 wasn’t able to determine any decline in Unit 2 because indicators have been taken out to prepare for the removal of melted debris, it said.
Increased leakage could require more cooling water to be pumped into the reactors, which would result in more contaminated water that is treated and stored in huge tanks at the plant. TEPCO says its storage capacity of 1.37 million tons will be full next summer. A government panel’s recommendation that it be gradually released into the sea has faced fierce opposition from local residents and a decision is still pending.