Mission impossible: An industrial cleanup without precedent — The Economist

In the article below, The Economist tries to put a price tag on the long-term decommissioning efforts at Fukushima Daiichi. Tokyo Electric faces a number of daunting problems, including the removal of molten fuel from the reactor containment vessels and cores, the storage of 370,000+ tons of contaminated water in storage tanks – TEPCO’s long-term disposal solution is to dump it into the Pacific, – and the prevention (through various measures, all of which have thus failed) of 300 tons of groundwater from becoming contaminated and flowing into the Pacific, a daily occurrence since March 2011. TEPCO is also trying to “clean up” a portion of Fukushima’s countryside in the Japanese government’s effort to move nuclear refugees back to their hometowns. With a decontamination goal of lowering annual radiation exposure to 1 millisievert, Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former vice-chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, admits that this is unrealistic, and I may add from my knowledge of the radiation cleanup, impossible. Parts of Fukushima are going to remain uninhabitable for decades if not centuries. Scraping off a few inches of topsoil from contaminated areas may reduce radiation levels on that day or that week, but experience has shown that those levels rise again. It’s about time the Japanese government starts looking for a new permanent residence for the nuclear refugees rather than threatening to take away their compensation in exchange for the ability to move back to their “decontaminated” hometowns.

The Economist: ” TEPCO says decommissioning Dai-ichi’s four damaged reactors will cost ¥980 billion, but that does not include the clean-up, fuel storage or compensation. On a broader reckoning, the Japan Centre for Economic Research, a private research institute, puts the bill over the next decade at ¥5.7 trillion-¥20 trillion, but that still excludes compensation to the fisheries and farming industries. A still broader calculation by the same institute puts the entire cost of the disaster at ¥40 trillion-¥50 trillion. Thanks to government bail-outs, the company that so mismanaged Fukushima Dai-ichi carries on. It even says it will make a profit this year. ”

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