Fukushima topic has lost its headline position in the news, but the situation there is far from being stable.
TEPCO was injecting water into reactors, because otherwise they would supposedly get hot and start contaminate air even more due to the smoke. And because the reactors are believed to have holes, the water didn’t run back through the pipes, but went somewhere in the basements of the building. Because the water was in a direct contact with the damaged fuel, it was highly radioactive: stay for 3-12 hours around it, and you’re dead.
Now, basements are not normally designed to be hermetical containers of water, especially of a highly radioactive water. So no wonder TEPCO had annouced a leak or two every now and then. The latest announcement has been made today, they’re just missing another 57 tons of water and have to clue where it went. So far, TEPCO has managed to keep the world quiet by displaying heroic measures to patch the leaks.
Buuuut, basements have another problem. They are not of unlimited size. Every day, around 500 tons of water is being added, and 0 tons water is being removed. Obviously, they need to drain basements, pump the water through some purifying device, and then perhaps use it again for cooling.
They timeline was as follows. They have calculated the time when basements will run full and the water starts spilling. And this is any time starting from right now. Last Friday, they have finished the installation of purifiers and made a first run, with not very good results. I do hope they will manage to fix it, but it is a damn tight deadline they have.
In case they fail, the consequences will NOT be immediately endangering, at least as far as I understand it. The water is still dangerous, but it will most probably go to the ocean, where it will be diluted down to normal levels. May be I’m wrong, but the only big problem of a leakage would be the huge impact on the whole asian sea food industry. Fishes and algae are known for concentrating radioactivity, and fishes can swim around and reach Russia, Korea or China borders. In case of a big leakage, people will (and should) stop eating asian sea food, similar as it happened with mushrooms in Europe after the Chernobyl. After decade of two, a whole generation will grow who don’t like sea food, don’t know names of fishes, etc. Only river and lake fishes will be used. Well, similar as in Germany they can’t tell boletus from birch boletus, believe milk mushrooms are poisonous, and only know champignons and mu-er…