Although this article takes a slanted look at the bright side – ignoring the numerous mishaps and shortcomings of the decommissioning effort, – it does include some good statistical updates.
Nuclear Energy Institute: ” The March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi followed a 45-foot-high tsunami that washed over the plant in the wake of a historically powerful earthquake off Japan’s east coast. Loss of electric power to the facility and all but one of 12 emergency diesel generators led to overheating nuclear fuel in three of the six reactors, meltdown of uranium fuel and ultimately the release of radioactivity into the environment.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is in the process of decommissioning all six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi site. This process will take decades and will include:
- Removal of nuclear fuel debris from the site in the 2020-2022 time frame.
- Full decommissioning of the site 30 to 40 years from now.
TEPCO’s decommissioning is being monitored by Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority, government agencies and private groups in Japan, and the International Atomic Energy Agency.
After its third review and a site visit, a 15-member team of experts from the IAEA praised Japan for taking steps to implement planned measures to reduce radiological risks and making progress toward the safe decommissioning of the plant, stating that: “Japan has made significant progress since our previous missions. The situation on the site has improved—progressive clean-up has led to reduced radiation dose levels in many parts of the site.”
To date, TEPCO workers have:
- Stabilized the reactors and brought them to so that fuel and debris can be removed.
- Completed the removal of 1,533 nuclear fuel assemblies from the reactor 4 storage pool to a common used fuel pool.
- Treated approximately half of the accumulated contaminated water at the site.
- Installed an advanced liquid processing system to remove most remaining radioactive contaminants in water stored at the facility.
- Built approximately 770 meters of a seaside wall between the facility and the ocean to stop the flow of water from the site into the ocean.
TEPCO continues to post regular updates on the progress of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi site.
Through the decommissioning process, specialized robots have been trundling around the site, moving debris, taking radiation readings and ensuring the way is clear for workers to enter buildings. The robots include:
- Kits to convert front-loaders into unmanned, laptop-controlled bulldozers that assist in clearing debris outside the reactor buildings sent from Virginia-based Qinetiq.
- An unmanned aerial vehicle, Honeywell’s T-Hawk “micro air vehicle,” to take close-in video footage of the reactor buildings. The drone, a little over a foot in diameter, was able to provide a detailed look inside the buildings and fuel storage vaults.
- Three radio-controlled helicopters sent by French firm Helipse to monitor conditions in the reactor buildings. The 10-foot-long helicopters were specially equipped with radiation sensors, infrared thermometers and cameras. “