UK & World News
Fukushima Toxic Leak Alert Set To Be Hiked
Efforts are continuing to contain a major toxic leak from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant with plans to heighten the alert level.
The operator of the site said about 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water has leaked from one of hundreds of steel tanks around the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which lies 130 miles northeast of Tokyo.
Amid the deepening crisis, Japan is to raise the severity to a level three "serious incident".
The international severity scale goes from 0-7, with seven being the worst.
Workers were pumping out the remaining contaminated water in the tank and moving it to other containers, in a desperate effort to prevent it from escaping into the sea.
Masayuki Ono, general manager of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) which runs the plant, said: "We found a radiation level strong enough to give someone a five-year dose of radiation within one hour."
Japan's nuclear watchdog has said it is concerned that more storage tanks at the wrecked nuclear plant will spring leaks.
It also said it feared the disaster exceeded the ability of Tepco to cope "in some respects".
Four other tanks of the same design have had similar leaks since last year. The incidents have shaken confidence in the reliability of hundreds of tanks that are crucial for storing what has been a continuous flow of contaminated water.
Hideka Morimoto, a spokesman for Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority, said: "We are extremely concerned."
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said: "Any way you look at it, this is deplorable. The government will make every effort to halt the leak of contaminated water as soon as possible."
China said it was 'shocked' to hear that Fukushima was still leaking contaminated water two years after the disaster and urged Japan to provide information "in a timely, thorough and relevant way".
Professor Andrew Sherry from the University of Manchester, said: "Though serious, this leak is a long way from the Level Seven incident we were facing in 2011."
He said the action being taken by Tepco was "entirely sensible", but added the incident highlighted the need for an inspection programme for the storage tanks.
"Openness and transparency of the nuclear industry was a key lesson from Fukushima and maintaining this principle during the current situation is critical," said Prof Sherry.
The Fukushima plant suffered multiple meltdowns following a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 - a level 7 "major accident" and the worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
Hundreds of tanks were built around the plant to store massive amounts of contaminated water coming from the three melted reactors, as well as underground water running into reactor and turbine basements.
However, contaminated water that the operator has been unable to contain continues to enter the Pacific Ocean at a rate of hundreds of tonnes per day. Much of that is groundwater that has mixed with untreated radioactive water at the plant.