Monitoring developments over at Japan concerning the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility is like waiting for the ticking bomb to explode anytime. On Thursday, Japan's nuclear regulator Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) disclosed, or rather confirmed fears of experts all along - a new radioactive water leak has been found at the plant.
Fearing there could be more undetected leaks around the facility, Shunichi Tanaka, the chairman of NRA, raised the plant's incident level alert from one to three based on an international scale that measures the gravity and seriousness of atomic accidents.
Workers of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, discovered a leak from one of the hundreds of tanks storing highly radioactive water. The leak is believed to have seeped the toxic water into the Pacific.
"We are hurriedly checking if some 300 tanks of the same type holding contaminated water have the same leak problem," an unidentified TEPCO spokesman was quoted by the AFP as saying.
"We have finished pumping out water from the troubled tank, while we have continued removing the soil soaked by the water," he said.
Mr Tanaka, in a news conference, said the leakage incident could happen anytime without notice.
"We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more. We are in a situation where there is no time to waste," he told reporters.
Mycle Schneider, an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments, told BBC he feared there is more than meets the eye here, or there is more than what actually the Japanese government and TEPCO releases as far as amounts of radiation levels or leaks are concerned.
"The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic," Mr Schneider said.
"What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else - not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that."
"It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse."
Tsuyoshi Numajiri, TEPCO spokesman, had actually voiced out this same concern on Wednesday, as he noted that traces of radioactivity have been detected in a drainage stream.
"We cannot rule out the possibility that part of the contaminated water flowed into the sea," he said.
And in an apparent surrender, TEPCO made a call to international experts to help it with the burgeoning and worsening problems surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.
"Many other countries outside of Japan have experienced decommissioning reactors, so we hope we can consult them more and utilize their experience," Zengo Aizawa, TEPCO's vice president, said at a news conference Wednesday night.
"In that sense, we need support, not only from the Japanese government but from the international community to do this job."
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