Highly radioactive water has leaked into the sea from Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor, according to TEPCO, the company that owns the plant. A spokesman said up to 45,000 litres could have escaped but described that amount as small. The leak is still being investigated.
Last week a TEPCO report found that the scale of March’s earthquake and tsunami was far larger than the facility was equipped to handle.
The Japanese government and TEPCO are now working towards what is called a “cold shutdown” later this month. That is when water used to cool nuclear fuel rods remains below its boiling point, preventing the fuel from reheating.
It would have repercussions beyond the plant. A cold shutdown is one of the criteria the government has said must be met before allowing 80,000 residents who lived within 20km of the reactor to start returning to their homes.