Japan’s nuclear agency announced today that it will raise the severity level of the new radioactive water leak at Fukushima, saying the toxic puddles surrounding the site may be more dangerous than initially reported.
The highly radioactive water, found leaking into the ground from a storage tank Monday, was first classified as a level one incident on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, but will now be upgraded to a level three occurrence.
The Fukushima plant was damaged in the 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. When the quake knocked out the cooling systems, several of the plant’s reactors melted down. Water is still being pumped into the dormant facility to cool the reactors, leading to a large quantity of contaminated water that has to be stored on site.
Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, said in a news conference that Tepco, the plant’s operator, failed to spot the leak for days, or even weeks. “We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more,” he said. “We are in a situation where there is no time to waste.” The latest reports from the plant suggest that some of the contaminated water may have already reached the Pacific.