Engineers in Japan are using a chemical compound, sawdust and shredded newspaper to stop radioactive water from leaking into the ocean from a nuclear power plant crippled last month by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
The decision Sunday to resort to water absorbent polymers and other means came a day after workers at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant found a hole in a maintenance pit that appears to be allowing highly radioactive water to drain into the sea. Workers tried using concrete on Saturday to seal the hole in the maintenance pit, but that effort failed.
Experts say the liquid plastic injected Sunday is supposed to expand to 50 times its original size as it sets. But a spokesman for the Tokyo Electric Power Company said hours later that there were no detectable changes in radiation levels in coastal waters near the plant.
Japan warned Sunday it could take months to stop radiation from leaking into the ocean.
Also Sunday, TEPCO said the remains of two workers killed in the tsunami have been recovered at the Fukushima plant.
The three-week battle to cool the plant’s overheated reactors and avoid dangerous meltdowns of highly radioactive fuel rods has seen workers pump massive amounts of salt water into the reactors. That move has left the reactors and soil surrounding them full of highly radioactive water that has prevented workers from close-quarter damage assessments.
The U.N. nuclear agency has warned that high concentrations of radioactive particles have spread outside the 30-kilometer exclusion zone around the nuclear plant.
Thousands of Japanese and U.S. military personnel joined together Friday in a final three-day sweep to search for those still missing from the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. More than 11,000 people are confirmed dead, with more than 16,500 still missing.