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Why is Japan dumping radioactive water into the ocean?

Japanese officials allowed owners of the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant to empty tanks holding 10,000 tons of slightly radioactive water into the ocean – in order to make room to pump highly contaminated water out of reactor No. 2.

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Radioactive water leaks into the sea near the No. 2 reactor of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, April 2. Workers labored through the weekend to find the source of the leak. Unable to do so, they dumped slightly radioactive water into the ocean in order to free up tank space to pump out highly radioactive water from the suspect area.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. / Kyodo News / AP

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Radioactive water continued to drain from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean on Monday, as Japanese officials mounted a desperate effort to find and plug the source of the leak.

On Saturday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) thought it had discovered the leak’s headwaters – a crack in a concrete pit near reactor No. 2. TEPCO workers poured concrete into the pit to close the breach, but the leak continued.

On Sunday, workers broke through the top of a connecting trench and dumped in a mix of sawdust, newsprint, and absorbent polymers in an attempt to glue the leak shut. That didn’t work either, noted the International Atomic Energy Agency in a Monday update on Fukushima’s status: “Leaking has not stopped.”

Radioactive water

As the Fukushima crisis passes the three-week mark, the thousands of tons of water – used to keep crippled reactors and spent-fuel pools cool – are becoming an increasing concern.

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