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Tepco Probes Cause of Latest Radioactive Water Leak at Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is investigating the cause of another leak of radioactive water at its wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant, a reminder of the challenges remaining at the site of the world’s worst atomic accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The company, known as Tepco, is probing the origin and cause, spokeswoman Kaoru Suzuki said today by telephone. Tepco revealed the leak in a statement on its website this weekend.

Highly radioactive water was detected inside the No. 3 reactor building at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, Tepco said in yesterday’s statement. The contaminated water likely hasn’t escaped outside the building, Tepco’s Suzuki said.

The latest leak threatens to undermine efforts by the company to distance itself from the March 2011 disaster as it attempts to chart a path toward growth. Tokyo-based Tepco last week released a turnaround plan calling for investments in upstream energy projects and overseas electricity businesses.

Beta radiation levels of 24 million becquerels per liter were detected in the water from the first floor of the reactor building, the company said. The utility in December detected beta radiation levels of 57 million becquerels per liter in water beneath the same unit, Suzuki said.

The latest leak may have come from the containment vessel for water used to cool melted fuel at the reactor, broadcaster NHK reported earlier today.

The leaked water measured at about 20 degrees Celsius (68 degrees Fahrenheit) in temperature compared with the surrounding air’s 7 degrees Celsius, the statement said.

Ending radioactive water leaks along with groundwater and ocean contamination at the Fukushima plant may take more than five years, according to a report released by a government advisory body in December.

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