Japan's efforts to combat leaking radioactive material took on a new urgency on Monday, as the country announced that it was dumping millions of gallons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean, in an effort to help ease fears of further meltdown at the damaged Fukushima Dai-icihi Nuclear Power Plant. Scientists said that the radioactivity in the water being dumped was not enough to cause harm to sea life.
In a related development, the country also sought from Russia a floating vessel used to decommission nuclear submarines. The vessel, the Suzuran, converts radioactive liquid into cement and has been used in the Russian port of Vladivostok for several years.
The nuclear plant was dumping more than 3 million gallons of radioactively contaminated water into the Pacific in order to make room for even more highly radioactive water to be stored at the plant's facilities.
The Dai-ichi plant was one of several damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and shut off power and running water for millions of people for nearly a week. Homes for tens of thousands of people were destroyed. The death toll has continued to climb, past 11,000, with another 15,000 still missing.
In many areas in the northeastern region of the main island, Honshu, survivors have dug mass graves for the thousands washed away by the 30-foot-tall tsunami waves caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake. Most Japanese are cremated after death, but the shortage of kerosene has necessitated the mass burials.
The Dai-ichi plant was the hardest hit, and people living in a 13-mile radius are still unable to return to what is left of their homes because of fears of radioactive material found in the ground and in food and tap water.