Japan Suspends Nuclear Waste Water Operation

Posted June 18th, 2011 at 1:25 am (UTC-5)
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The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has suspended a process to decontaminate more than 110,000 tons of radioactive water.

Tokyo Electric Power Company officials said Saturday that the operation had to be halted just five hours after the water scrubbing system came online.

TEPCO officials said the part of the system that absorbs radioactive cesium had reached its processing capacity and needs to be replaced far earlier than expected.

A TEPCO spokesman told a news conference Saturday that the cause of the problem is being studied. He had no estimate on when the project could resume.

The water was used to cool the plant's reactors after a nuclear meltdown caused by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March. It has been held in reservoirs at the plant, but TEPCO says those tanks are nearly full.

Company officials said Friday they planned to remove radioactive elements, oil and salt from the water and then reuse it in the effort to fully shutdown the reactors. But cleaning the water will create radioactive sludge, which the company will have to store.