Fukushima Nuclear Waste Bags Swept Away During Typhoon Hagibis: Reports

October 16, 2019 Updated: October 16, 2019

Typhoon Hagibis’s historic rainfall in Japan swept away nuclear decontamination waste bags from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into a river.

Officials said that as Hagibis-triggered rainfall caused rivers to flood, bags filled with debris collected during the Fukushima decontamination efforts were swept into the Furumichi River after the facility was flooded, the Asahi Shimbun reported on Sunday.

The discovery was made by workers this week after the rain fell over the weekend.

About 2,667 bags were being stored at the Fukushima waste site. They didn’t have sheets placed over them for protection from the rain and wind.

Six bags were found shortly after with their contents intact, officials told NHK. Officials warned that other bags may have gone downstream.

Authorities said the bags will have little impact on the environment if they are released into the river.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is illuminated for decommissioning operation in the dusk in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, in this aerial view photo taken by Kyodo on March 10, 2016. (Kyodo/File Photo via Reuters)

The decontamination process involved removing soil, leaves, plants, and other debris that contain radioactive substances released in the 2011 meltdown that was triggered by a large earthquake and tsunami.

Meanwhile, CNN reported that some 72 people died in Japan due to Hagibis’s impacts. Fukushima Prefecture had the highest number of casualties in the storm.

Running Out of Space

The utility company operating Fukushima’s tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant said last month that it will run out of space to store massive amounts of contaminated water in three years, adding pressure on the government and the public to reach a consensus on what to do with it.

Three reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant suffered meltdowns in a massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan.

waves in japan
Men look at fishing boats as surging waves hit against the breakwater while Typhoon Hagibis approaches at a port in town of Kiho, Mie Prefecture, Japan on Oct. 11, 2019. (Toru Hanai/AP Photo)

Radioactive water has leaked from the damaged reactors and mixed with groundwater and rainwater at the plant. The water is treated but remains slightly radioactive and is stored in large tanks.

The plant has accumulated more than 1 million tons of water in nearly 1,000 tanks. Its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., says it plans to build more tanks but can accommodate only up to 1.37 million tons, which it will reach in the summer of 2022.

What to do after that is a big question.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.