The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan says that a new leak has exposed six workers to radioactive water.

The exposure occurred on Wednesday when a worker mistakenly removed a pipe connected to a water treatment system at the site.

"The water did not come into contact with their faces so there is a little possibility that the workers ingested" any of the water, a TEPCO spokeswoman said.

The workers had detached a pipe that connects to a treatment system for removing salt from hundreds of tonnes of water that the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) pumps over the melted fuel in wrecked reactors at Fukushima.

A spokesman said that "several tonnes" of water spilled at the treatment facility but was contained within the site itself.

Contamination issues are nothing new at the Fukushima plant. The nuclear plant has struggled to control waste water ever since an earthquake and tsunami hit the region in March 2011.

TEPCO workers poured thousands of tonnes of water onto the reactors to keep them cool, and continue to douse them.

This now-radioactive water is being stored in around 1,000 tanks, which have been the source of leaks recently. Some contaminated water has made its way into the sea, the company has admitted.

TEPCO has so far revealed no clear plan for the water stored on site, but experts have said that ultimately it will have to be dumped in the Pacific, once it has been scoured of the worst of its radioactive load.

But this suggestion faces opposition from fishermen, environmental groups and neighbouring countries.

Since the quake and tsunami struck the plant, the Fukushima plant has suffered three meltdowns and multiple hydrogen explosions.

Previously, in response to growing criticism over TEPCO'S  handling of leak issues, Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, promised that his government would play a greater role in stopping leaks of highly radioactive water.

Japan has pledged nearly $500m to contain leaks and decontaminate radioactive water from the Fukushima site to cope with what has been termed as one of the worst atomic disasters in a quarter of a century.

Source: Agencies