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August 9, 2013

Japan Works to Stop Leak of Radioactive Water

Watch Japan May Create Frozen Ground to Stop Radioactive Leak on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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After a massive earthquake in Japan damaged the Fukushima nuclear plant in March 2011, concerns over danger to people and the environment took center stage. But while Japan seemed to sustain less damage than anticipated, it was recently revealed that radioactive water has been spilling into the ocean at a rate of 300 tons a day since soon after the earthquake.

TEPCO, the plant’s commercial operator, said the company discovered radiation spikes in water samples last May and began creating a chemical barrier to stop the runoff underground. The radiation spikes meant that three of the plant’s nuclear reactors had gone into meltdown after the earthquake.

Now, the Japanese government is acting to help stop the runoff, including a possible effort to freeze the ground so that the water can’t get out.

“Building such a large-scale water barrier by freezing the ground is unprecedented anywhere in the world,” said Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. “We believe it is necessary that the country steps forward in supporting its construction.”

Those hardest hit by the revelations include the fisherman involved in the region’s already struggling fishing industry, who will find it difficult to convince the public to buy their potentially toxic product.

Warm up questions

1. What do you know about nuclear power? What are the benefits and risks of nuclear power?

2. What do you know about the Japanese earthquake of 2011?

Discussion questions

1. What did you find most surprising about this video?

2. Do you think it is TEPCO or the government’s job to clean up the toxic waste from the disaster? Why?

3. How involved do you think the government should be in the production of energy?

4. Do you think the risks of nuclear power outweigh the benefits? Why or why not?

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