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TEPCO reports worst radioactive leak from tank at Japan's Fukushima
by Staff Writers
Tokyo (AFP) Aug 20, 2013

Latest incident at French nuclear plant renews calls for its closure
Thionville, France (UPI) Aug 19, 2013 -The release of a hydrochloric acid from France's trouble-plagued Cattenom nuclear plant has renewed calls for its closure from nearby Luxembourg and Germany.

The release occurred between July 23-24 at Cattenom, located near Thionville in northern France, when 15,300 gallons of relatively harmless hydrochloric acid leaked from the tap of an acid tank, the French nuclear safety agency ASN announced last week.

The chemical -- used for anti-scaling treatment within one of the 1,300 megawatt plant's four nuclear reactors -- was flushed out through an above-ground wastewater pipe, but it was discovered the pipe had a gap in it. Instead of being transferred to the cooling tower, the effluent seeped into the ground.

Some of that material was recovered from the groundwater and released into the Moselle River through regular sewer pipes, with plant operator EDF initiating a groundwater monitoring program outside the plant.

EDF downplayed the incident, saying the acid spill represented no danger to the public and would present few problems outside the immediate site. ASN concurred, classifying the event as a zero on the seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale.

The incident was the latest of more than 750 recorded at Cattenom since its commissioning in 1986 and came after a transformer fire in June -- the same month the plant was singled out for criticism by ASN after undergoing three incidents in 10 days.

The agency's official explanation about the July 23-24 incident wasn't issued until Tuesday, and no word was forthcoming from EDF at the time of the event, rankling some in Luxembourg, 20 miles away from the plant.

There are no nuclear power plants in Luxembourg and Cattenom's construction in the 1980s was staunchly opposed in the country. The Luxembourg Parliament unanimously adopted a motion last year stating that Cattenom "threatens the sovereignty and sustainability of the Luxembourg nation," and demanding "the strengthening of government action to [attain its] permanent closure," Le Monde reported.

The daily newspaper Luxemburger Wort editorialized Friday the acid leak posed "worrying questions" and asked how it was possible that a significant amount of material could escape from the plant "simply because of a missing a piece of pipe."

It also showed problems with EDF's "communication policy thinking," since the event wasn't disclosed at the time, the newspaper said.

The French plant and its problems have become a political issue in the nearby German state of Saarland in the run-up to national elections next month, where members of the Green and Social Democratic parties criticized German Environment Minister Peter Altmaier for not demanding it be shut down.

In a published interview last week, Altmaier called such demands "frivolous" and indicated he would make so such request of France, triggering harsh criticism from local Green and SPD politicians, broadcaster Saarlandischer Rundfunk reported.

Member of Parliament Simone Peter, Saarland's Green Party leader, said Cattenom would only be safe "if they shut down immediately," asserting it has major design flaws, while SPD MP Mark Tressel accused Altmaier -- a member of the Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union -- of not using his office to lobby for the safety of the Saarland.

In the Bundestag, the CDU has been leaning toward making a request, while the CDU in Saar have called for the shutdown of Cattenom, he told the broadcaster.

Some 300 tonnes of radioactive water is believed to have leaked from a tank at Japan's crippled nuclear plant, the worst such leak since the crisis began, the operator said Tuesday.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said the leak was believed to be continuing Tuesday at Fukushima and it had not yet pinpointed the source of it.

TEPCO said puddles with extremely high radiation levels -- about 100 millisieverts per hour -- have been found near the water tanks at the ruined plant.

"This means you are exposed to the level of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker is allowed to be exposed to in five years," a TEPCO spokesman told a press conference.

The company later said it had identified which tank was faulty but had yet to find the spot from where it was leaking.

"We have instructed TEPCO to find the source of contaminated water...and to seal the leakage point," an official from the Nuclear Regulation Authority told AFP.

"We have also instructed them to retrieve contaminated soil to avoid a further expansion of toxic water, and to strengthen monitoring of the surrounding environment."

There were no significant changes in radiation levels outside the plant, he added.

Since a quake-generated tsunami struck Fukushima in March 2011, knocking out reactor cooling systems and sparking meltdowns, there have been four similar leaks from tanks of the same design.

But the latest leak was the worst from a tank in terms of volume, the TEPCO spokesman said.

TEPCO admitted the toxic water might contaminate groundwater and flow into the Pacific Ocean "in the longer term", but said it was working to avoid such a situation.

"We are transferring the contaminated water from a tank with a leakage problem to unbroken tanks, and retrieving leaked water and soil around it," the spokesman said.

"We are also beefing up existing earth-fill dams around tanks," he said, as the region braces for heavy rain later on Tuesday.

So far four tonnes of the spilled water had been retrieved since Monday evening when TEPCO started the recovery operation, the company said.

TEPCO has faced a growing catalogue of incidents at the plant including several leaks of radioactive water, following the worst nuclear disaster in a generation.

The company -- which faces huge clean-up and compensation costs -- has struggled with a massive amount of radioactive water accumulating as a result of continuing water injections to cool reactors.

The embattled utility in July admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had been leaking outside the plant. This month it started pumping it out to reduce leakage into the Pacific.

The problems have led the Japanese government and its nuclear regulator to say they would get more directly involved in the cleanup at Fukushima, rather than leaving it to the operator.

While no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the meltdowns of Fukushima's reactors, large areas around the plant had to be evacuated.

Tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes.


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Latest incident at French nuclear plant renews calls for its closure
Thionville, France (UPI) Aug 19, 2013
The release of a hydrochloric acid from France's trouble-plagued Cattenom nuclear plant has renewed calls for its closure from nearby Luxembourg and Germany. The release occurred between July 23-24 at Cattenom, located near Thionville in northern France, when 15,300 gallons of relatively harmless hydrochloric acid leaked from the tap of an acid tank, the French nuclear safety agency ASN ... read more

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