Fukushima leak 'could cause hydrogen explosion' at nuclear plant
Warnings of risk of hydrogen explosion due to build up of gases in containers leaking radioactive water at Japan's disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant
Leaking containers at Japans embattled Fukushima nuclear power plant are at risk of possible hydrogen explosions, experts have claimed.
Almost 10 per cent of recently inspected containers holding contaminated water at the nuclear plant in northeast Japan were found to be leaking radioactive water.
The leakages, discovered during inspections by Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operators of the plant, were thought to be caused by a build-up of hydrogen and other gases due to radiation contamination.
The discovery was reported to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), which raised concerns surrounding the potential hazards of accumulated hydrogen building up in the containers.
If the concentration level is high, a spark caused by static electricity could cause a container to explore, one NRA official told the Asahi Shimbun.
Tepco officials made the discovery while inspecting 278 of the plants 1,307 containers and found that 26 close to ten per cent - had a leakage or overspill from their lids.
It is believed that gases had accumulated in the sediment at the base of the containers, prompting the volume of the liquid to expand and resulting in the overflow.
However, officials at Tepco stated that the risk of an explosion was believed to be minimal, with a series of measures being undertaken as a matter of urgency to resolve the faulty storage containers.
The operators also emphasised that there was no sign of radioactive water escaping beyond the confines of the concrete structures that encase the leaking containers.
We think the possibility of an occurrence of hydrogen explosion from these storage facilities is extremely low, since there is no fire origin, or anything that generates static electricity nearby,
Outlining measures to fix the problem, she added: For temporary measures, we have been removing the leaked water, installing absorption materials, monitoring by patrol, keeping water level inside those facilities lower than set and keeping equipment which may generate fire away.
In the long term, were going to lower the water level of current facilities so as to prevent further leakages.
The plant, currently embroiled in a complex decades-long process of decommissioning, has been plagued by problems since it was damaged in the earthquake and tsunami four years ago.
Among its biggest challenges relate to the disposal of the constant stream of water flushed over reactors to keep them cool enough to prevent further radioactive releases.
Leakages, technical glitches and storage space problems have tainted the plants on-going efforts to deal with the vast quantities of contaminated water created daily as a result.