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To deal with the excess tainted water, the utility has channeled it to more than 300 huge storage tanks placed around the plant. The utility has plans to install storage tanks for up to 700,000 tons — or about three more years’ worth — of contaminated water. If that maxes out, it could build additional space for roughly two more years’ worth of storage, said Mayumi Yoshida, a company spokeswoman.
But those forecasts hinge on plans to detect and plug holes in the damaged reactors to minimize leaks over the next two years. The utility also plans to take steps to keep ground water from seeping into the reactor basements.
Both are tasks that TEPCO is still not sure how to accomplish: Those areas remain so highly radioactive that it is unclear how humans or even robots could work there.
There’s also a risk the storage tanks and the jury-rigged pipe system connecting them could be damaged if the area is struck by another earthquake or tsunami.
Goto, the nuclear engineer, believes it will take far longer than TEPCO’s goal of two years to repair all the holes in the reactors. The plant also would have to deal with contaminated water until all the melted fuel and other debris is removed from the reactor — a process that will easily take more than a decade.
He said TEPCO’s roadmap for dealing with the problem is "wishful thinking."
"The longer it takes, the more contaminated water they get," he said.
Associated Press Writer Malcolm Foster contributed to this report.
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