BRATISLAVA: Contaminated water remains the greatest challenge at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant after the 2011 meltdown, the worst atomic disaster in a generation, the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog said on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila).
“The crippled reactors are in a stable condition generally,” said International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Yukiya Amano.
“The most urgent priority is handling of the contaminated water,” he said, after heavy rains caused a leak of radioactive water containing a cancer-causing isotope, possibly into the sea.
“It is also important to address the issue of decontamination of the off-site” so tens of thousands of evacuees can return home.
He spoke a day after Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power said water contaminated with strontium-90—at 70 times the legal limit for safe disposal—breached a barrier meant to contain radioactive overflow.
Strontium-90 is produced during nuclear reactions. It accumulates in bones and remains potent for many years, causing several types of cancer in humans.
On October 14, IAEA experts began a mission to assess clean-up efforts at the crippled Fukushima plant.
Amano said there will be another mission to Japan later this year to advise authorities on how to handle contaminated water.