Japan will have to dump radioactive water into Pacific, minister says — The Guardian

” The operator of the ruined Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant will have to dump huge quantities of contaminated water from the site directly into the Pacific Ocean, Japan’s environment minister has said – a move that would enrage local fishermen.

More than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water has accumulated at the plant since it was struck by a tsunami in March 2011, triggering a triple meltdown that forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has struggled to deal with the buildup of groundwater, which becomes contaminated when it mixes with water used to prevent the three damaged reactor cores from melting.

Tepco has attempted to remove most radionuclides from the excess water, but the technology does not exist to rid the water of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump water that contains tritium into the ocean. It occurs in minute amounts in nature.

Tepco admitted last year that the water in its tanks still contained contaminants beside tritium.

Currently, more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water is held in almost 1,000 tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi site, but the utility has warned that it will run out of tank space by the summer of 2022.

“The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it,” Yoshiaki Harada told a news briefing in Tokyo on Tuesday. “The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion.”

No decision on how to dispose of the water will be made until the government has received a report from a panel of experts. Other options include vaporising the liquid or storing it on land for an extended period.

Harada did not say how much water would need to be discharged into the ocean.

One recent study by Hiroshi Miyano, who heads a committee studying the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi at the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, said it could take 17 years to discharge the treated water after it has been diluted to reduce radioactive substances to levels that meet the plant’s safety standards.

Any decision to dispose of the waste water into the sea would anger local fishermen, who have spent the past eight years rebuilding their industry.

Nearby South Korea has also voiced concern over the impact it would have on the reputation of its own seafood.

Last month, Seoul summoned a senior Japanese embassy official to explain how Fukushima Daiichi’s waste water would be dealt with.

Ties between the north-east Asian nations are already at a low ebb following a compensation dispute over Koreans forced to work in Japanese factories during the second world war.

The government spent 34.5 bn yen (£260m) to build a frozen underground wall to prevent groundwater reaching the three damaged reactor buildings. The wall, however, has succeeded only in reducing the flow of groundwater from about 500 tonnes a day to about 100 tonnes a day.

Japan has come under renewed pressure to address the contaminated water problem before Tokyo hosts the Olympics and Paralympics next summer.

Six years ago during the city’s bid for the games, the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, assured the international community that the situation was “under control”.

by The Guardian

source

For 6,000, the daily bus ride takes them to Fukushima plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–Despite the predawn hour, few people are sleeping on a bus that steadily makes its way north on National Route 6.

Some passengers are planning for the work ahead. One is looking forward to chatting with his colleagues. And a few wonder if today will be the day when their annual radiation doses reach the safety limit.

Every day, buses like this take 6,000 workers to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. And every day, the same buses take the exhausted and mostly sleeping workers back to their base at the Japan Football Village (J-Village) in Naraha.

Although the Fukushima plant is still decades away from being decommissioned, without this daily routine of the workers who toil amid an invisible danger, the situation at the site would be much more difficult.

407 Daily Bus Rides

One of them, the 49-year-old leader of a group of metal workers from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has been working at nuclear plants, including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture, for nearly 20 years.

He was at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown there in March 2011.

“Nobody can get close to the area where the melted nuclear fuel remains due to high radiation doses,” the man said. “Even if we could approach the area, we would have no way out if something happens. The situation is harsh.”

Those metal workers install tanks for the contaminated water that keeps accumulating at the plant.

Although there are plenty of empty seats, the young workers sit in front and the older workers take the back seats.

Thousands of workers are staying at temporary dormitories set up in J-Village, a soccer training complex.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the nuclear plant, hired a local bus company to transport the workers to the plant because securing parking areas near the site has been difficult since the 2011 disaster.

The company provides 407 services a day to and from the plant. Each trip takes about 30 minutes.

The first shuttle bus departs from J-Village at 3:30 a.m., while the last bus leaves the Fukushima plant at 9:45 p.m.

In mid-November amid torrential rain, one bus picked up a man taking shelter under the eaves of a bus stop.

He said he is in charge of managing data related to radiation doses of fittings and other equipment at the plant.

“We have many different types of work here,” the man proudly said.

Also on the way to the nuclear plant, a 53-year-old employee of a security company was thinking about personnel distribution.

Like other workers there, security guards must be replaced when their annual radiation doses reach a certain level set by the government.

He said he has difficulties making ends meet with a limited number of guards who have knowledge about radiation.

Suddenly, the man’s cellphone rings, and the caller orders the deployment of additional security guards to the plant.

A 52-year-old TEPCO employee was on the way to the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant to provide a safety training program for workers, many of whom are victims of the triple disaster.

“I want to convey to workers how precious their lives are and how important safety is in a way that doesn’t make me sound hypocritical,” the employee said.

The triple meltdown has been called a “man-made disaster” caused by the failure of both TEPCO’s management and the government’s regulatory authorities.

The TEPCO employee will use props, such as a ladder, and pretend to be a worker to explain dangerous cases at the No. 1 plant.

Premium Seats

On the trip back to J-Village, a different atmosphere exists on the bus.

Although dazzling sunlight shines through the windows and stunning views of the ocean are available, most of the workers are fast asleep in their wrinkled uniforms.

“Few people stay awake. I don’t even switch on the radio. They must be tired after their work,” said Nobuyuki Kimura, 52, who has driven the shuttle bus for one-and-a-half years.

In Kimura’s bus that departed the plant at 2:30 p.m., all 50 seats and some of the auxiliary seats were filled. The few passengers who stayed awake remained quiet.

By early evening, fewer workers boarded the bus at the plant.

Window seats at the back of the bus are desirable on all rides because they have an enough room for the seats to recline, allowing passengers to cross their legs.

A 21-year-old worker from Iwaki went for a window seat at the back after standing at the front of a line waiting for the bus.

“I can relax sitting here. This is the premium seat,” said the man who collects waste materials, such as boots and socks, at the site.

Although he works in protective gear in an area with high radiation levels, he said he has never thought about quitting his job.

He said he became fed up with school as a junior high school student, and did not bother going to senior high school.

At the age of 18, he joined his current company, and his first assignment was at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

“I became acquaintances with more and more people. It’s fun to speak with people at work,” he said.

Through his work at the nuclear plant, his weight has dropped from 115 kilograms to 93 kg.

Thirty to 40 years are needed to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to the mid- and-long-term roadmap compiled by the government and TEPCO.

To reduce the groundwater flowing into the buildings housing the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, TEPCO installed coolant pipes this year to create an underground frozen soil wall to divert the water into the ocean.

TEPCO announced in October that the ice wall on the sea side was nearly frozen, but groundwater is believed to be seeping through it.

The utility plans to start removing spent fuel from the No. 3 reactor building in fiscal 2017. It also has plans to begin the daunting task of removing the melted fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactor containment vessels in 2021.

However, extremely high radiation levels have prevented workers from approaching and understanding the condition of the melted fuel. The removal method has yet to be decided.

The estimated cost of work for decommissioning and dealing with the contaminated water has ballooned to 8 trillion yen ($68.1 billion). ”

by Aya Nagatani

source

Panel: Tepco’s ‘ice wall’ failing at Fukushima nuclear plant — The Asahi Shimbun

” Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s “frozen wall of earth” has failed to prevent groundwater from entering the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and the utility needs a new plan to address the problem, experts said.

An expert panel with the Nuclear Regulation Authority received a report from TEPCO on the current state of the project on Aug. 18. The experts said the ice wall project, almost in its fifth month, has shown little or no success.

“The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing,” said panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University. “They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan.”

One big problem hampering work at the nuclear plant, which was hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has been the tons of groundwater entering the buildings housing the No. 1 through No. 4 reactors every day.

The water becomes contaminated with radioactive materials within the reactor buildings.

TEPCO’s plan was to create a frozen wall of earth around the reactor buildings to divert the groundwater away from the plant and into the ocean.

The company started freezing the ground on March 31, and the project’s budget was 34.5 billion yen ($344 million) in taxpayer money as of the end of May.

But the amount of groundwater pumped from the ocean side of the frozen wall has shown little change from when there was no icy earth wall.

TEPCO’s report said 99 percent of thermometer readings on the 820-meter-long stretch showed temperatures of freezing or lower, suggesting the underground wall was frozen solid at those points.

However, the remaining 1 percent of the readings above freezing were in areas with high levels of groundwater concentration.

A 99-percent success rate may sound impressive, but much like dams, airlocks and Tupperware, TEPCO’s ice wall is failing if it is not 100-percent watertight.

The utility said the unfrozen sections could be reinforced with an injection of concrete.

The panel asked the utility submit calculations estimating the amount of groundwater that can be blocked if water is pumped before it reaches the frozen wall. ”

by Kohei Tomita

source

Tepco admits ice wall can’t stop Fukushima No. 1 groundwater

” The much-hyped ice wall at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has failed to stop groundwater from flowing in and mixing with highly radioactive water inside the wrecked reactor buildings, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. has admitted.

Tepco officials also said at a meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Tokyo that it is not the utility’s ultimate goal to shut out groundwater with the ice wall, which has been built around the four damaged reactor buildings at the plant.

Tuesday’s announcement was apparently the first time the utility publicly said it is technically incapable of blocking off groundwater with the frozen wall.

Five years after the March 2011 quake and tsunami triggered the nuclear crisis, Tepco continues to be plagued by radiation-tainted groundwater, mostly rainwater that is mixing with contaminated water in the basement of the damaged reactor buildings.

In response, Tepco has completed most of the 1.5-km-long sunken wall of frozen soil around the stricken reactors to keep groundwater out. It has also built “subdrain” wells around the buildings to pump up the tainted groundwater for treatment and ultimate discharge into the Pacific.

While the completed sections of the ice wall began operating in March, it has not made a visible impact in reducing the amount of groundwater inflows. According to Tepco, the amount of groundwater pumped up from wells near the ocean – the last defense before flowing into the sea – averaged 321 tons per day in June, just 31 tons less than the daily average in May.

Asked whether Tepco plans to eventually block rainwater from seeping through the ice wall, a Tepco official said it is not technically feasible “to keep out the groundwater 100 percent,” according to a video of the meeting released Tuesday by the NRA.

“We are aiming to control the amount of water going into the reactor buildings, with the ice wall and subdrains,” said Tomohiko Isogai, an official in charge of dismantling the plant.

Kiyoshi Takasaka, a nuclear expert at the Fukushima Prefectural Government, said it was the first time he had heard such a comment from Tepco, pressing the firm on whether it marked a “change of policy.”

A Tepco official denied this, saying that while it wants to “close off the wall as much as possible,” its ultimate goal has been to “curtail” groundwater inflow, not halt it.

Also at the meeting, NRA acting head Toyoshi Fuketa demanded that Tepco move quickly to reduce the amount of highly radioactive water inside the reactor buildings, saying such water presents the risk of escaping in the event of another monster tsunami. Some 60,000 tons of highly tainted water remain in the leaking basements of reactor buildings 1, 2, 3 and 4.

“We want the amount of (radioactive water) inside the buildings to be reduced as much as possible,” he said. ”

by Tomoko Otake

source

Tepco to inject cement instead of frozen water wall — Fukushima Dairy

” On 6/2/2016, Tepco reported to NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority) that they need to inject cement to “frozen” water wall and NRA admitted it.

The feasibility of frozen water wall project was questioned since before the beginning. In the meeting of NRA, Tepco admitted the temperature remains nearly 10 ℃ at 4 “freezing” points to cause no improvement to stop contaminated groundwater. It has been in freezing operation for over 2 months.

These 4 points are situated between the reactor buildings and the sea. The volume of contaminated water to be pumped up has not been decreased regardless of the frozen water wall.

Tepco states the temperature remains over 0 ℃ because of the high speed of groundwater. They inject cement to slower the water. ”

by Iori Mochizuki

source

Possible causes of Fukushima frozen wall failures — SimplyInfo

While Nuclear Street focuses on the 90 percent of the ice wall at Fukushima No. 1 that is working (in the previous post), Simply Info analyzes the possible cause of the failure of the other 10 percent of the ice wall to freeze.

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