CNN Wire Staff
Tokyo (CNN) - Workers at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant faced a difficult balancing act Tuesday as they struggled to keep reactors cool and prevent radioactive water from leaking into the ocean.
Water has been a key weapon in the battle to stave off a meltdown at the facility since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. But tons of water have been pumped and sprayed to keep the plant's radioactive fuel from overheating, and the plant is running out of room to store the now-contaminated liquid.
"Now the focus is how to ... remove the water and contain it safely," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, the government's point man for the crisis, told reporters Tuesday.
The discovery of contaminated water in a maintenance tunnel that leads to the No. 2 reactor's turbine plant has sparked fresh concerns about the possibility of additional radiation leaking from the plant. Japan's nuclear safety agency said workers were using sandbags and concrete panels to keep the water inside the tunnel, which is located about 55 meters (180 feet) from the Pacific shore.
Workers are also trying to pump water out of the turbine houses of the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant's owner. Lights were restored in the main control room of the No. 4 reactor, the utility said.
The company also reported that freshwater was being injected into the No. 3 reactor. Seawater was previously used.
"TEPCO is in an awful dilemma right now," said Jim Walsh, an international security expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "One the one hand, they want to cool the reactor and keep the reactor cool, so they have to pour water in. If there is a leak in one of the containment vessels, that water keeps leaking out. So they have a problem where the more they try to cool it down, the greater the radiation hazard as that water leaks out from the plant."
Japanese officials and international experts have said they believe there's been a partial meltdown at three of the plant's six reactors, and Edano reported Monday that the No. 2 reactor's containment vessel may be leaking.
"The high radiation levels on site seem to support that idea. There is no visual proof yet, but it's increasingly likely there was partial fuel melting," said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering expert at the University of Michigan.
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