Six Telling Figures from Japan’s Leaking Fukushima Nuclear Plant

Members of the local government and nuclear experts inspect a coastal observation well in Fukushima, Japan. Photo by the Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images.

New revelations that the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan is leaking more radioactive groundwater than previously thought have prompted Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to say Wednesday that the government will step in and “take firm measures” to help solve the problem.

On Thursday’s PBS NewsHour, we’ll explore the scope of the problem with Arjun Makhijani, an electrical and nuclear engineer who is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland.

In the meantime, he gave us some numbers to consider about the plant:

300 tons

The new amount of radioactive groundwater the Japanese government estimates has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean each day since soon after the nuclear plant’s meltdown, following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

700,000 liters

Daily volume of cooling water, plus the water entering into building basements due to rain and from groundwater, that must be managed at the site.

100 degrees Celsius (or 212 degrees Fahrenheit)

Temperature at which Tokyo Electric Power Co. cooled the three damaged reactors, using a water injection system, to keep them stabilized.

33,000 becquerels/liter (Bq/L)

The amount of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 in the contaminated groundwater reported at the site in July. (U.S. drinking water maximum contaminant level: about 4 Bq/L; Japan’s emergency limit is 60 Bq/L for Cesium-134 and 90 Bq/L for Cesium-137)

A satellite image of the Fukushima nuclear plant shows its position on the coast of the Pacific Ocean. Imagery collected on Aug. 4, 2013. By DigitalGlobe/ScapeWare3d via Getty Images.

136 miles

Distance between the Fukushima nuclear power plant and Japan’s capital Tokyo. PBS NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien reported in March 2012 about grocery stores in Tokyo posting cesium levels next to produce grown in Fukushima to try to calm customers’ concerns.

$300-$400 million

Estimated cost of building a new containment system that the Japanese government is considering — a frozen underground wall to block water from escaping, reported the Associated Press.

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