Study: Possible water problem at storage sites in Fukushima — The Asahi Shimbun

” Bags of radiation-contaminated soil could be sinking into the ground at temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture, allowing water to accumulate within instead of flowing to outside tanks for testing, the Board of Audit said.

No confirmation has been made that the ground at the sites is actually sinking or if contaminated water has pooled inside. But Board of Audit officials are asking the Environment Ministry to consider additional safety measures if signs indicate that this is actually occurring.

The board’s study focused on 34 of the 106 temporary storage sites that the Environment Ministry set up for soil removed through decontamination work after the disaster in March 2011 unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Construction of the storage sites started in 2012, and the transfer of contaminated soil to these facilities was completed in 2015.

The temporary storage sites were designed to have a slight mound on the ground in the center to allow water from the bags to flow down into surrounding collection tanks for periodic measurements of radiation levels.

Internal Environment Ministry guidelines called for this setup at storage sites containing bags that are not waterproof.

The Board of Audit studied 34 temporary storage sites where the bags are not waterproof. These bags were piled five deep or higher at those sites.

The study showed that at 31 of the sites, the weight of the bags may have not only flattened the mound in the center, but it also could have created an indent in the ground where the leaking water could accumulate.

If the water does not flow to the tanks, it will be difficult to determine the radiation levels.

The study also noted that the foundations at the sites were soft to begin with and may be unable to support the bags of soil. The sinking phenomenon could worsen as time passes.

The Environment Ministry played down the risk of the water contaminating areas around the storage facilities.

“Even if the ground has sunk, the structure is designed so water does not leak outside the site,” a ministry official said. “Eventually, the water should collect in the tanks. We will make every effort to oversee the sites as well as use waterproof bags as much as possible.”

A total of 4.16 billion yen ($40 million) was spent to construct the 31 temporary storage sites.

The Environment Ministry designed the temporary storage sites under the precondition they would be used for only three years and then removed. For that reason, measures were not taken to strengthen the foundations to prevent the ground from sinking, even if soft farmland was chosen for a site.

The plan is to eventually return the land where the temporary storage sites have been built to its original state and return it to the landowners.

However, the Board of Audit’s study adds another concern for residents, many of whom had opposed construction of the temporary storage sites in their neighborhoods.

Toshio Sato, 68, has evacuated to Fukushima city from his home in Iitate village, where four of the possible problem storage sites are located.

“There are some people who want to resume growing rice once they return home,” Sato said. “If water is accumulating, there is the possibility it could unexpectedly overflow into surrounding areas. The concerns just seem to emerge one after another.”

The government plans to lift the evacuation order for a large part of Iitate in March 2017. ”

by Kosuke Tauchi, Shoko Rikimaru, Kenji Izawa and Akifumi Nagahashi



Tepco compensation to cost taxpayers more than previously estimated — The Japan Times

” Maximum interest payments to financial institutions by the government related to helping Tokyo Electric Power Co. pay compensation over the nuclear disaster are projected to total ¥126.4 billion, up some ¥50 billion from an estimate in October 2013, according to the Board of Audit.

If the financial aid for compensation payments related to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reaches a limit of ¥9 trillion, the government will take up to 30 years to collect the funds, the board said Monday in its latest estimate.

Because the interest payments may rise further, depending on Tepco’s financial conditions, the board said that the company needs to boost its efforts to improve its finances and corporate value.

It was the board’s second audit of Tepco.

After the upper limit for government financial aid was raised from ¥5 trillion to ¥9 trillion in December 2013, the board recalculated other figures based on the status as of the end of 2014.

According to the board, aid to Tepco for compensation payments totaled ¥4.534 trillion as of the end of last year.

Meanwhile, a total of ¥189.2 billion in taxpayer money has been spent since fiscal 2011 on decommissioning the nuclear facility and dealing with the buildup of radioactive water, the Board of Audit said.

The board also said Tepco has allocated a massive amount of money for radioactive water treatment facilities and tanks that functioned only for a short period of time, with the amount totaling around ¥68.6 billion.

Tepco has spent some ¥32.1 billion on equipment to remove radioactive cesium from tainted water at the crippled plant, but the facilities stopped operating three months after the start of operations in June 2011, due mainly to equipment failure.

The utility also spent ¥16 billion to build more than 100 tanks for storing radioactive water at the plant. But these are now being replaced with more reliable containers after around 300 tons of highly tainted water was found to have leaked from one of the tanks in 2013.

“The government should give sufficient consideration to ensuring the recovery of the state funds and boosting Tepco’s corporate value” to reduce the burden on taxpayers, the board said, urging Tepco to make further cost-cutting efforts.

The government plans to collect funds for the financial aid from the sale of Tepco shares, contributions by nuclear power plant operators, special payments by Tepco and government subsidies to the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp.

The board’s estimate is based on the assumption that Tepco pays ¥50 billion, or half of its pretax profit, in its annual special contribution.

To calculate interest payments and how long it will take to collect the funds, the board also assumed that Tepco shares will move between ¥750 and ¥1,350 apiece.

The latest estimate shows that the government will finish collecting the funds as early as 2032, with interest to be paid to financial institutions totaling ¥89.2 billion, or as late as 2044, with interest reaching ¥126.4 billion.

The previous estimate found that the interest would total between ¥37.4 billion and ¥79.4 billion if Tepco receives maximum aid of ¥5 trillion.

The board also said that it will take much longer to collect the funds because Tepco has failed to resume operations at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, as assumed in the estimate, and the Tepco share price currently stands below ¥500, far lower than the prices projected in the estimate. ”