Japanese authorities were forced Monday to dump 10,000 tons of radioactive water into the ocean in a desperate bid to st@bilize a crippled nuclear plant.
The facility’s operator said it was necessary to release water contaminated with low-level radiation because they needed to make space for even more highly toxic water.
“We have no choice but to release water tainted with radioactive materials into the ocean as a security measure,” said government spokesman Yukio Edano.
Officials insisted the release – which is equivalent to the amount held in four Olympic-sized swimming pools – would cause little harm to the environment.
Engineers have been pumping a constant stream of water into the crippled reactors for weeks in an effort to keep their cores cool.
But the pile-up of toxic run-off has started to slow crucial repair work and had begun leaking into the ocean on its own.
Officials injected a white dye into water to help trace the path of the leaks spilling out of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
A giant silt curtain was also being built in the ocean to contain the spread of radioactive mud.
Aides to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan say the situation at the plant has “somewhat st@bilized,” but it could be months before it is fully under control.
Radioactivity has been detected in the water, air and soil around the plant and has also shown up in the food supply.
An official for Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, broke into tears while announcing plans to dump the toxic water.
“We have already caused such pain and nuisance to local residents,” he said. “We cannot express how sorry we are to have to impose another burden.”