Radioactive water at Fukushima should be stored not dumped — Beyond Nuclear International

” Last week, Japan’s then environment minister, Yoshiaki Harada, made news with a pronouncement that wasn’t news. The storage tanks at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site, filled with radioactive water, were reaching capacity. By 2022 there would be no room for more tanks on the present site. Japan would then have to dump the radioactive water stored in the tanks into the Pacific Ocean, he said.

Although likely unrelated to those remarks, a day later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe dispatched 19 of his cabinet ministers, including Harada. Harada was replaced as environment minister by rising star, Shinjiro Koizumi, the son of former primer minister, Junichiro Koizumi. Both father and son are opposed to nuclear energy, and on his first day in office, the younger Koizumi told reporters that he believed Japan should end its use of nuclear energy and close its nuclear power plants.

“I would like to study how we scrap them, not how to retain them,” Reuters reported him saying. This is a surprising position from someone inside the fervently pro-nuclear Abe government and it remains to be seen whether he will be allowed to translate his position into policy.

Dumping Fukushima Daiichi’s accumulated radioactive water has long been the plan proposed by Tepco, the site owner. Fukushima fishermen, along with some scientists and a number of NGOs from around the world, continue to object.

Cooling water is needed at the Fukushima site because, when Units 1, 2 and 3 lost power, they also lost the flow of reactor coolant, causing their cores to overheat. The fuel rods then melted, and molten fuel dripped down and burned through the pressure vessels, pooling in the primary containment vessels. Units 1, 3 and 4 also suffered hydrogen explosions. Each day, about 200 metric tons of cooling water is used to keep the three melted cores cool, lest they once more go critical. Eventually the water becomes too radioactive and thermally hot to be re-used, and must be discarded and stored in the tanks.

As Greenpeace International (GPI) explained in remarks and questions submitted during a consultative meeting held by the International Maritime Organization in August 2019:

“Since 2011, in order to cool the molten cores in the Tokyo Electric Power Company Fukushima Daiichi reactor units 1-3, water is continuously pumped through the damaged Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) and circulated through reactor buildings, turbine buildings, the Process Main Building and the “High Temperature Incinerator Building”  and water treatment systems.

“As a result, the past eight years has seen a relentless increase in the volume of radioactive contaminated water accumulating on site. As of 4 July 2019, the total amount of contaminated water held in 939 storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant (units 1-4) was 1,145,694 m3 (tonnes). The majority of this, 1,041,710 m3, is contaminated processed water. In the year to April 2019, approximately 180 m3/day of water was being circulated into the RPVs of units 1-3.”

In addition to the cooling water, the tanks also house water that has run down from the nearby mountains, at a rate of about 100 tons each day. This water flows onto the site and seeps into the reactor buildings. There, it becomes radioactively contaminated and also must be collected and stored, to prevent it from flowing on down into the sea.

The water tank crisis is just one of multiple and complex problems at the Fukushima Daiichi site, including the eventual need to extract the molten fuel debris from inside the stricken reactors. Decommissioning cannot begin until the water storage tanks are removed.

Tepco has tried to mitigate the radioactive water problem in a number of ways. The infamous $320 million ice wall was an attempt to freeze and block inflow, but has had mixed results and has worked only intermittently. Wells were dug to try to divert the runoff water so it does not pick up contamination. The ice wall has reportedly reduced the flow of groundwater somewhat, but only down from 500 tons a day to about 100 tons.

In anticipation of dumping the tank water into the Pacific Ocean, Tepco has deployed an Advanced Liquid Processing System that the company claims can remove 62 isotopes from the water — all except tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and therefore cannot be filtered out of water. (Tritium is routinely discharged by operating commercial nuclear power plants).

But, like the ice wall, the filtration system has also been plagued by malfunctions. According to GPI, Tepco admitted only last year that the system had “failed to reduce radioactivity to levels below the regulatory limit permissible for ocean disposal” in at least 80% of the tanks’ inventory. Indeed, said GPI, “the levels of Strontium-90 are more than 100 times the regulatory standard according to TEPCO, with levels at 20,000 times above regulations in some tanks.”

The plan to dump the water has raised the ire of South Korea, whose fish stocks would likely also be contaminated. And it has introduced the question of whether such a move is a violation of The Conventions of the Rights of the Child and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as was raised in a joint written statement by the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and Greenpeace International, before the UN Human Rights Council currently in session.

So what else could or should Tepco do, if not dump the water offshore and into the ocean? A wide consensus amongst scientific, environmental and human rights groups is that on-site storage for the indefinite future is the only acceptable option, while research must continue into possible ways to extract all of the radioactive content, including tritium.

Meanwhile, a panel of experts says it will examine a number of additional but equally problematic choices, broadly condensed into four options (each with some variations — to  dilute or not to dilute etc):

  • Ground (geosphere) injection (which could bring the isotopes in contact with groundwater);
  • Vapor release (which could infiltrate weather patterns and return as fallout);
  • Releasing it as hydrogen (it would still contain tritium gas); and
  • Solidification followed by underground burial (for which no safe, permanent storage environment has yet been found, least of all in earthquake-prone Japan).

Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds, recommends a chemical injection processes (drilling mud) — also used by the oil industry — to stop the flow of water onto the site entirely. But he says Japan has never considered this option. GPI contends that Japan has never seriously researched any of the alternatives, sticking to the ocean dumping plan, the cheapest and fastest “fix.”

All of this mess is of course an inevitable outcome of the choice to use nuclear power in the first place. Even without an accident, no safe, permanent storage solution has been found for the high-level radioactive waste produced through daily operation of commercial nuclear power plants, never mind as the result of an accident.

According to Dr. M.V. Ramana, by far the best solution is to continue to store the radioactive water, even if that means moving some of the storage tanks to other locations to make more room for new ones at the nuclear site. The decision to dump the water, Ramana says, is in line with Abe’s attempts to whitewash the scene before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and claim, as he has publicly in the past, that everything at Fukushima is “under control.” (Baseball and softball games will be played in Fukushima Prefecture and the torch relay will start there, all in an effort to pretend there are no dangerous nuclear after-effects remaining in the area.)

“The reason that they keep saying they need to release it is because they might have to move some of this offsite and that goes against the Abe government’s interest in creating the perception that Fukushima is a closed chapter,” Ramana wrote in an email. “So it is a political decision rather than a technical one.”

As with all things nuclear, there are diverging views on the likely impact to the marine environment and to human health, from dumping Fukushima’s radioactive water into the ocean. These run the gamut from “a little tritium won’t hurt you” to “the Pacific Ocean is dead thanks to Fukushima” — both of which are wildly untrue. (Tritium can bind organically inside the body, irradiating that person or animal from within. The many problems in the Pacific began long before Fukushima and are likely caused by numerous compounding factors, including warming and pollution, with Fukushima adding to the existing woes.)

What is fact, however, is that scientists have found not only the presence of isotopes such as cesium in fish they tested, but also in ocean floor sediment. This latter has the potential to serve as a more long-term source of contamination up the food chain.

But it is also important to remember that if this radioactive water is dumped, it is not an isolated event. Radioactive contamination in our oceans is already widespread, a result of years of atmospheric atomic tests. As was reported earlier this year, scientists studying deep-sea amphipods, retrieved from some of the deepest trenches in the ocean — including the Mariana Trench which reaches 36,000 feet below sea-level and is deeper than Mount Everest is high — detected elevated levels of carbon-14 in these creatures.

“The levels closely matched abundances found near the surface of the ocean, where the amount of carbon-14 is higher than usual thanks to nuclear bomb tests conducted more than half a century ago,” reported Smithsonian Magazine.

Weidong Sun, co-author of the resulting study, told Smithsonian Magazine that “Biologically, [ocean] trenches are taken to be the most pristine habitats on Earth”.

How chilling, then, to realize that our radioactive irresponsibility has reached the lowest depths, affecting creatures far removed from our rash behaviors.

Consequently, the decision by the Japanese government to release yet more radioactive contamination into our oceans must be viewed not as a one-off act of desperation, but as a contribution to cumulative contamination. This, added to the twin tragedies of climate crisis-induced ocean warming and plastics and chemicals pollution, renders it one more crime committed on the oceans, ourselves and all living things. And it reinforces the imperative to neither continue nor increase our reckless use of nuclear power as an electricity source. ”

by Linda Pentz Gunter, Beyond Nuclear International

source with photos and links

Prime Minister Abe uses the Tokyo Olympics as snake oil cure for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns — Fairewinds Energy Education

” As we prepare for the eighth remembrance of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, Fairewinds is ever mindful of what is currently happening in Japan.

There has never been a roadmap for Japan to extricate itself from the radioactive multi-headed serpentine Hydra curse that has been created in an underfunded, unsuccessful attempt to clean-up the ongoing spread of migrating radioactivity from Fukushima. Rather than focus its attention on mitigating the radioactive exposure to Japan’s civilians, the government of Japan has sought instead to redirect world attention to the 2020 Olympics scheduled to take place in Tokyo.

Truthfully, a situation as overwhelming as Fukushima can exist in every location in the world that uses nuclear power to produce electricity. The triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi are the worst industrial catastrophe that humankind has ever created.

Prior to Fukushima, the atomic power industry never envisioned a disaster of this magnitude anywhere in the world. Worldwide, the proponents and operators of nuclear power plants still are not taking adequate steps to protect against disasters of the magnitude of Fukushima!

Parts of Japan are being permanently destroyed by the migrating radioactivity that has been ignored, not removed, and subsequent ocean and land contamination is expanding and destroying once pristine farmlands and villages. For reference in the US and other countries, Fukushima Prefecture is approximately the size of the State of Connecticut. Think about it, how would an entire State – its woods, rivers, and valleys, eradicate radioactive contamination?

Let’s begin with the reactors and site itself. There was a triple meltdown in 2011, yet Tokyo Electric banned the use of the word “meltdown” in any of its communications with Japanese civilians. Now we know that in the first week after the tsunami, each molten radioactive core melted through its six-inch-thick steel reactor, burned and chemically reacted with the concrete underneath, and all are now lying in direct contact with groundwater. Aside from a few grainy pictures of those cores showing burn holes in the reactors, nothing has been done to remove the cores and to prevent further contamination of the groundwater. I have witnessed schemes including a mining operation to bore under the reactors and an underground train to collect the molten masses, but those schemes are decades from fruition. The government of Japan claims that the Fukushima site will be entirely cleaned and decommissioned in less than forty years, a date that will definitely slip AFTER the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are held, and one that is scientifically impossible since some radioactive isotopes will be spread across the Fukushima site and surrounding landscape for 300 years and others for 250,000 years.

Fukushima’s radioactive reactor cores have been in direct contact with groundwater for the last eight years, and then that highly toxic radioactive water enters the Pacific Ocean. When the disaster struck TEPCO wanted to build an ice-wall to prevent the spread of the contamination, which I knew would fail. I advocated immediately surrounding the reactors with a trench filled with zeolite, a chemical used to absorb radiation at other atomic facilities.

“The problem with freezing the soil is that as soon as you get an earthquake, you lose power and then your ice turns to mush and you’re stuck.” Gundersen, who has visited the Fukushima power plant in the past, said a better solution would be to dig a two-meter wide trench down to bedrock level and fill it with a material called zeolite: a volcanic material that comes from Mother Nature.

“It’s incredibly good at filtering radioactive isotopes. So whatever is inside the fence will stay inside and whatever is outside the fence would be clean,” said Gundersen, who estimates the price tag for such a project would be around $10 billion.

TEPCO’s ice wall has not eliminated radiation from spreading via groundwater. How will Fukushima’s owner TEPCO and the government of Japan successfully clean and mitigate the damage caused by the three atomic reactors that each lost their fuel to a meltdown? These problems were never anticipated in Japan where these reactors were built and operated or in the United States where the Fukushima nuclear plants were engineered and designed and the parts were manufactured.

Since the meltdowns in 2011, Fairewinds notified the world that the recovery plans for the proposed cleanup would be almost untenable, calling it a ‘long slog’. From the very beginning, I made it clear that “the nuclear disaster is underfunded and lacks transparency, causing the public to remain in the dark.” Sadly, eight years later, nothing has changed.

In February 2012 when I spoke to the press at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents Press Club, the government’s recovery from the radiation released by Fukushima has never been about protecting the people of Japan. It was clear in the immediate aftermath of the world’s largest atomic power disaster and still today, the government of Japan is focused on protecting the financial interests of the nuclear power corporations in Japan so they may build new reactors as well as continue to operate the old ones. Clearly, the steps taken by the government of Japan shows that the survival of the electric generating corporations like Hitachi, Toshiba, Tokyo Electric and others are more important to the Abe Government that the survival of 160,000 evacuees and the future of the food supply emanating from Japan’s agriculture and aquaculture.

Evacuees in Japan are being forced to move back to their community and their homes that remain radioactively contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi detonations and meltdowns. The government of Japan and the alleged global regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – which was chartered by the United Nations (UN) to both promote and regulate atomic power generation – have raised the allowable public radiation level more than 20-times what it originally was rather than return to land to the condition it once was.

An exposé released in early February 2019 in The Washington Post said that,

For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But hardly anyone has ventured back. Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart…

As we at Fairewinds Energy Education have repeatedly said since the tragic 2011 meltdowns, understanding why the fate of the 160,000 evacuees from the toxic Fukushima landscape does not matter to the government of Japan, one must simply follow the money trail back to the corporations producing Japan’s electricity. As Fairewinds has noted from its personal experience, and what The Washington Post and the people of Japan clearly understand is that these meltdown refugees are simply pawns in a much bigger issue of money and politics. According to The Washington Post article,

For the people of Namie and other towns near the Fukushima plant, the pain is sharpened by the way the Japanese government is trying to move beyond the tragedy, to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a symbol of hope and recovery, a sign that life can return to normal after a disaster of this magnitude…. Its charm offensive is also tied up with efforts to restart the country’s nuclear-power industry, one of the world’s most extensive networks of atomic power generation. [Emphasis Added].

Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be staged in Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city, and the Olympic torch relay will start from here.

[*Update Note: Several people have written to Fairewinds to ask about this statement in relation to “radiation-free capital city”.  First, this is a direct quote from The Washington Post relating to Fukushima City, the capital of Fukushima Prefecture. Second, we totally disagree with this quote that the city is “radiation-free” because it is not. All the sample data Fairewinds has reviewed shows the capital is significantly contaminated with radioactivity. Please follow details below in the remainder of this post.]

To determine whether or not Olympic athletes might be affected by fallout emanating from the disaster site, Dr. Marco Kaltofen and I were sponsored by Fairewinds Energy Education to look at Olympic venues during the fall of 2017. We took simple dirt and dust samples along the Olympic torch route as well as inside Fukushima’s Olympic stadium and as far away as Tokyo. When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, we found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. We also found that simple parking lot radiation levels were 50-times higher there than here in the US.

Thirty of the dirt and fine dust samples that I took on my last two trips to Japan in February and March 2016 and September 2017 were analyzed at WPI (Worchester Polytechnic Institute. The WPI laboratory analysis are detailed in the report entitled: Measuring Radioactivity in Soil and Dust Samples from Japan, T. Pham, S. Franca and S. Nguyen, Worchester Polytechnic Institute, which found that:

With the upcoming XXXII Olympiad in 2020 hosted by Japan, it is necessary to look into the radioactivity of Olympic venues as well as tourist attractions in the host cities… Since thousands of athletes and millions of visitors are traveling to Japan for the Olympics, there has been widespread concern from the international community about radiation exposure. Therefore, it is important to investigate the extent of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Dai-ichi incident…

The measured results showed a much higher activity of Cesium-137 in the proposed torch route compared to other areas. Overall, the further away from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the lower the radioactivity. The activity of Cesium-137 in Tokyo, the furthest site from the plant, was the lowest when compared to the other sites. Therefore, the activity of Cesium-137 in Tokyo sample was used as the baseline to qualitatively estimate the human exposure to radiation.

 .… At the Azuma Sports Park, the soil and dust samples yielded a range of 78.1 Bq/kg to 6176.0 Bq/kg. This particular Olympic venue is around 90 km from the Nuclear Power Plant. The other sites that are closer to the Nuclear Power Plant like the tourist route, proposed torch route, and non-Olympic samples have higher amounts due to the close proximity to ground zero of the disaster.

 … the proposed torch route samples had the highest mean radioactivity due to their close proximity to the plant. Based on the measurement, we estimated qualitatively that the radiation exposure of people living near the Azuma Sports Park area was 20.7 times higher than that of people living in Tokyo. The main tourist and proposed torch routes had radiation exposure of 24.6 and 60.6 times higher, respectively, than in Tokyo…. Olympic officials should consider using the results of this project to decide whether the radioactivity level at the proposed torch route and the Olympic venues are within acceptable level.

On a more personal note, I witnessed first-hand the ongoing radioactive devastation in and around the Namie area like that detailed in The Washington Post’s revealing and factual essay. During the two weeks I spent in and around Namie in September 2017 I took six short videos showing what the devastation looks and feels like up close. These short iPhone videos total less than 5-minutes of run time. I was on my own, without a videographer, so these short films probably lack the professional quality viewers may usually associate with Fairewinds, however, they do convey the very palpable feeling of gloom and emptiness pervading the ghost towns I visited. I am sharing the first three short videos in today’s blog. We will be releasing a Part 2 of this Fukushima update, which will feature another three short films.

Longtime Friends of Fairewinds may remember that back in 2011, Prime Minister Noda (he was between the ousted Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was PM when the Fukushima Meltdowns occurred and today’s Prime Minister Abe), claimed that the three melted down Fukushima reactors were in ‘cold shutdown’, which they were not, in order to lay the groundwork for Japan’s Olympic bid. Noda claimed “… we can consider the accident contained”. Fairewinds compared Noda’s “cold shutdown” hypocrisy to former President George Bush crowing about “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. Sadly, what we said in 2011 still rings true today:

Is the Japanese government and the IAEA protecting the nuclear industry and not the people of Japan by claiming that Fukushima is stable when it is not? Fairewinds’ chief engineer Arnie Gundersen outlines major inconsistencies and double-speak by the IAEA, Japanese Government, and TEPCO claiming that the Fukushima disaster is over. Problems like dynamic versus static equilibrium escalated dose exposures to the Japanese children and nuclear workers, and the blending of radioactive materials with non-contaminated material and then spreading this contaminated ash throughout Japan are only a small part of this ongoing nuclear tragedy. [*Update Note: A number of readers have written or called Fairewinds to ask the definition of dynamic versus static equilibrium? Sorry to speak in physics-speak and not catch it! Dynamic vs static equilibrium:  Equilibrium occurs when the forces on an object are balanced, and the object is not moving. A basketball lying in a ditch is in static equilibrium. A second basketball balancing on your finger is in static equilibrium. Both basketballs are not moving, yet one can be caused to move more easily.

Used in the context of this post, Atomic Balm Part 1, “static equilibrium” means that the Fukushima site has not been stabilized, so unforeseen human or natural situations make the site prone to events that could cause it to suddenly release more radiation.]

Later in 2013, Japan pressed the International Olympic Committee and bribed some of its members to accept the Olympics in 2020 according to an Associated Press article February 18, 2019 by Journalist Haruka Nuga.

Members of the JOC executive board are up for re-election this summer. There is speculation Takeda…[ Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, who is being investigated for his part in an alleged bribery scandal] will not run, or could be replaced. French investigators believe he may have helped Tokyo win the 2020 Olympics in a vote by the International Olympic Committee.

Takeda has been JOC president since 2001. He is also a powerful IOC member and the head of its marketing commission. He has not stepped aside from either position while the IOC’s ethics committee investigates.

…French authorities suspect that about $2 million paid by the Tokyo bid committee — headed by Takeda — to a Singapore consulting company, Black Tidings, found its way to some IOC members in 2013 when Tokyo won the vote over bids from Istanbul and Madrid… Takeda last month acknowledged he signed off on the payments but denied corruption allegations. An internal report in 2016 by the Japanese Olympic Committee essentially cleared Takeda of wrongdoing.

Tokyo is spending at least $20 billion to organize the Olympics. Games costs are difficult to track, but the city of Tokyo appears to be picking up at least half the bill.

Much of Japan’s focus has been to show that the Fukushima area is safe and has recovered from a 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the meltdowns at three nuclear reactors. [Emphasis Added]

Here is what I said in a video on Fairewinds website in 2013, when the original Tokyo Olympic announcement was made.

I think hosting the Olympics in 2020 is an attempt by the Japanese to change the topic. I don’t think people around the world are going to care until 2020 approaches. There is a seven-year window for the Japanese government to work to make Tokyo a showcase for the entire world to view. I think the Japanese government wanted to host the Olympics to improve the morale of the people of Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Unfortunately, it’s taking people’s attention off of the true cost of the accident, in terms of both money and public health.

Placing the Olympics in Tokyo was and still is a ploy to minimize the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns and to take the public’s attention away from a pressing emergency that still needs resolution for the health and safety of the people of Japan. ”

by Arnie Gundersen, edited by Maggie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

source

Read more about Fairewind’s followup article that includes detailed information on radiation exposure and cleanup costs of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns.

Fukushima’s underground ice wall keeps nuclear radiation at bay — CNET

” The intricate network of small metal pipes, capped off by six-foot-high metal scaffolding, shouldn’t stand out amid the numerous pieces of industrial equipment littered throughout the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. After all, it’s a power plant.

I take a closer look, and notice spheres of ice perched upon the smaller pipes, which line the center of the structure. The facility sits at the water’s edge, and there’s a brisk breeze blowing through.

But not that brisk.

It turns out, coolant is running through the pipes, freezing the soil below and creating an impermeable ice wall that’s nearly 100 feet deep and a mile long, encircling the reactors.

It’s like a smaller-scale subterranean version of the Wall in Game of Thrones, but instead of keeping out White Walkers and wights, this line of defense keeps in a far more realistic danger: radioactive contaminants from melted-down reactors that threaten to spill into the water by Fukushima Daiichi.

Daiichi is the site of the worst nuclear disaster, which happened after an earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, triggering a tsunami that devastated the facility. Two 50-foot-high waves knocked out the power generators that were keeping three of the six reactors’ fuel rods cool, triggering explosions and meltdowns that forced more than 160,000 people to flee their homes. Many of them still haven’t returned.

I came to Fukushima to check out the robots tasked with the near-impossible task of cleaning up Fukushima Daiichi. While here, I encountered this underground wall of ice.

The structure, which cost roughly $300 million, paid for by public funds, serves as critical protection, defending the Fukushima area from one of the most radioactive hotspots in the world. While Tokyo Electric Power Co., also known as Tepco, struggles to find a way to remove radioactive material from the facility – a process the government estimates could take more than four decades – the more immediate concern is what to do with the contaminated water leaking out from the facility.

One of the solutions has been to put up (down?) this underground ice wall, which prevents much of the surrounding groundwater from getting in. And while the practice of freezing soil to create a barrier has been around for more than 150 years, the magnitude of the application that stands before me is quite literally groundbreaking.

“Nobody has taken on a project of this scale,” Hideki Yagi, general manager of Tepco’s Nuclear Power Communications Unit, tells me through an interpreter.

Ice cold

While the term “ice wall” has a colorful ring to it, engineers use the more academic-sounding term Artificial Ground Freezing. The technique came out of France in 1862 as a way to help with the construction of mine shafts before German engineer F.H. Poetsch patented it. Since then, it’s been used to aid in building underwater tunnels or vertical shafts, as well as to cut off groundwater or redirect contaminated materials.

At Fukushima, my eyes follow the path of the pipes, which stretch around the reactor building. A Tepco employee tells me that a calcium chloride solution is pumped down through a smaller inner pipe, and circulated back up a large outer pipe.

The coolant brings down the temperature of each pipe to -30 degrees Celsius, or -22 degrees Fahrenheit, and the pipes are spaced about three feet apart. The cold emanating from each one hardens the soil around it.

The point of the ice wall is to keep the groundwater that runs down from the mountains to the west from entering Fukushima Daiichi and mixing with the toxic water leaking out of the Unit 1, 2 and 3 reactors. That is,  keep the clean water on the outside of the wall, while the contaminated water stays inside.

Tepco and manufacturing partners, such as Toshiba and Mitsubishi, are working on robots to identify and determine how to clear out the radioactive materials in each of the reactors’ primary containment vessels, essentially the heart of each facility.

Until then, they need a way to slow or stop the flow of water into the facility. At least initially, Tepco wasn’t even sure if the project was feasible.

“One of the challenges was how they would inject the pipes into the earth at such a deep level without impacting the other operations around it, and whether it would work,” Yagi says.

With the wall in place, Tepco says it has been able to reduce the level of contaminated water generated from Daiichi. But a Reuters report in March 2018 found that the wall still let a fair amount of clean water in, adding to the volume of toxic water the company needs to deal with. Tepco, however, says it’s been effective in reducing the volume.

“We know this is not the end of our effort,” says a company spokesman. “We will be continuously working hard to reduce the amount of  generation of contaminated water.”

The leaky bucket

Imagine a leaky bucket that constantly needs to be filled with water. At the same time, the water from the leak needs to be collected and stored. And there’s no end in sight to this cycle.

That essentially is the problem that Tepco faces at Daiichi. The fuel rods stored in the three radioactive units constantly have to be cooled with fresh water, but leaks mean the company needs to be vigilant about keeping the tainted liquid from getting out of the facility’s grounds.

Since the accident nearly eight years ago, Tepco has collected 1.1 million tons of contaminated water in 900 tanks stored on the grounds at Daiichi. The company estimates it has enough space in the 37.7-million-square-foot facility to house an additional 270,000 tons of water, which means it would run out sometime in 2020.

“We’re conscious of the fact that we can’t keep storing more and more water,” Kenji Abe, a spokesman for Tepco’s decommissioning and decontamination unit, says through an interpreter.

Tepco has worked on several solutions to decrease the level of contaminated water generated by the facility. The company has switched from tanks sealed with bolts to welded tanks, which offer greater storage capacity and less risk of leaks. There’s a steel wall by the water to keep the contaminants from flowing into the ocean. Tepco has also covered 96 percent of the surface of most of the facility with concrete, preventing rainwater from seeping in.

Then there’s the ice wall, which has done its share of lowering the amount of contaminated water generated from the facility by keeping out most of the groundwater.

Over the past three and a half years, Tepco has seen the amount of polluted water generated fall by a quarter to just under 3,900 cubic feet of water per day, with occasional spikes during periods of rainfall.

The final element

I’m in full protective gear, including a Tyvek coverall, hardhat and full-face respirator mask, walking through one of three water treatment facilities at Daiichi. I move hastily, trying to keep up with my Tepco guides, when my suit gets snagged on an exposed bolt.

Did the suit rip? My eyes shoot back at my photographer and widen with fear. This is usually the part in an outbreak movie that dooms a key character. I look down and see the suit is still intact, and breathe a sigh of relief.

It turns out, I didn’t need to panic. The facility, called the Advanced Liquid Processing System, isn’t radioactive, although it’s designed to remove radioactive elements from the collected water. There are three such facilities, which can process a total of 70,630 cubic feet of water a day.

So far, treatment technology from partner companies like Kurion and Sarry have enabled Tepco to remove 62 of the 63 radioactive elements from the water, but one, tritium, remains.

It’s this one element, which is bonded to the water at an atomic level, that means Tepco needs to keep collecting and storing the water.

Lake Barrett, a senior adviser to Tepco who previously served as acting director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management at the US Department of Energy, notes that reactors in China and Canada already discharge water with tritium.

“It’s fundamentally safe,” Barrett says.

But organizations such as Greenpeace have called for Tepco to keep storing the water, noting that much of the early batches of treated water far exceed safety limits for radioactive elements.

Given the sensitivities around Fukushima, Tepco must continue to store the water. A spokesman said the company isn’t planning to disperse the water. But it is one option being considered by the Japanese government, which ultimately makes the decision.

“Resolving the issue of the contaminated water is something we haven’t yet reached a final solution on,” Yagi says.

Analyzing the data

Underneath the building housing the restaurant and employee rest area is a water treatment analysis center, a super-clean area that requires us to go through numerous radiation tests and four sets of boot changes.

There are glass beakers containing sea water, groundwater and water from the ALPS facilities. Scientists walk around in silence, moving beakers from one machine to another. A dozen machines in a second room measure the gamma ray levels.

The facility was originally built underground in 2014 because it needed to be on the Daiichi site, but couldn’t be exposed to radiation because of the nature of the tests. The walls are 8 inches thick, with the more sensitive labs hardened with an additional 20 inches. The facility has grown by 16 times over the past four years as it expanded the number of workers and machines.

“No other facility in Japan can handle the amount of data and work we do here,” says a Tepco scientist working at the facility who preferred not to identify himself.

He adds that all of the data is released publicly. “That’s because society demands work with a high level of trust,” he says.

The scientist explains that Japan has set a legal radioactivity limit of 60,000 becquerel per liter of tritium. But the treated water is still at 1.7 million Bq per liter, or roughly 30 times what’s deemed safe.

So, for now, Tepco must continue collecting the water. And the ice wall continues to stand, invisible to onlookers, as one of the most important lines of defense. ”

by Roger Cheng, CNET

source with photos and a video showing how robots have been used to view melted fuel

Prime Minister Abe uses the Tokyo Olympics as snake oil cure for the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdowns — Fairewinds Energy Education

” As we prepare for the eighth remembrance of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi, Fairewinds is ever mindful of what is currently happening in Japan.

There has never been a roadmap for Japan to extricate itself from the radioactive multi-headed serpentine Hydra curse that has been created in an underfunded, unsuccessful attempt to clean-up the ongoing spread of migrating radioactivity from Fukushima. Rather than focus its attention on mitigating the radioactive exposure to Japan’s civilians, the government of Japan has sought instead to redirect world attention to the 2020 Olympics scheduled to take place in Tokyo.

Truthfully, a situation as overwhelming as Fukushima can exist in every location in the world that uses nuclear power to produce electricity. The triple meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi are the worst industrial catastrophe that humankind has ever created.

Prior to Fukushima, the atomic power industry never envisioned a disaster of this magnitude anywhere in the world. Worldwide, the proponents and operators of nuclear power plants still are not taking adequate steps to protect against disasters of the magnitude of Fukushima!

Parts of Japan are being permanently destroyed by the migrating radioactivity that has been ignored, not removed, and subsequent ocean and land contamination is expanding and destroying once pristine farmlands and villages. For reference in the US and other countries, Fukushima Prefecture is approximately the size of the State of Connecticut. Think about it, how would an entire State – its woods, rivers, and valleys, eradicate radioactive contamination?

Let’s begin with the reactors and site itself. There was a triple meltdown in 2011, yet Tokyo Electric banned the use of the word “meltdown” in any of its communications with Japanese civilians. Now we know that in the first week after the tsunami, each molten radioactive core melted through its six-inch-thick steel reactor, burned and chemically reacted with the concrete underneath, and all are now lying in direct contact with groundwater. Aside from a few grainy pictures of those cores showing burn holes in the reactors, nothing has been done to remove the cores and to prevent further contamination of the groundwater. I have witnessed schemes including a mining operation to bore under the reactors and an underground train to collect the molten masses, but those schemes are decades from fruition. The government of Japan claims that the Fukushima site will be entirely cleaned and decommissioned in less than forty years, a date that will definitely slip AFTER the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are held, and one that is scientifically impossible since some radioactive isotopes will be spread across the Fukushima site and surrounding landscape for 300 years and others for 250,000 years.

Fukushima’s radioactive reactor cores have been in direct contact with groundwater for the last eight years, and then that highly toxic radioactive water enters the Pacific Ocean. When the disaster struck TEPCO wanted to build an ice-wall to prevent the spread of the contamination, which I knew would fail. I advocated immediately surrounding the reactors with a trench filled with zeolite, a chemical used to absorb radiation at other atomic facilities.

“The problem with freezing the soil is that as soon as you get an earthquake, you lose power and then your ice turns to mush and you’re stuck.” Gundersen, who has visited the Fukushima power plant in the past, said a better solution would be to dig a two-meter wide trench down to bedrock level and fill it with a material called zeolite: a volcanic material that comes from Mother Nature.

“It’s incredibly good at filtering radioactive isotopes. So whatever is inside the fence will stay inside and whatever is outside the fence would be clean,” said Gundersen, who estimates the price tag for such a project would be around $10 billion.

TEPCO’s ice wall has not eliminated radiation from spreading via groundwater. How will Fukushima’s owner TEPCO and the government of Japan successfully clean and mitigate the damage caused by the three atomic reactors that each lost their fuel to a meltdown? These problems were never anticipated in Japan where these reactors were built and operated or in the United States where the Fukushima nuclear plants were engineered and designed and the parts were manufactured.

Since the meltdowns in 2011, Fairewinds notified the world that the recovery plans for the proposed cleanup would be almost untenable, calling it a ‘long slog’. From the very beginning, I made it clear that “the nuclear disaster is underfunded and lacks transparency, causing the public to remain in the dark.” Sadly, eight years later, nothing has changed.

In February 2012 when I spoke to the press at the Tokyo Foreign Correspondents Press Club, the government’s recovery from the radiation released by Fukushima has never been about protecting the people of Japan. It was clear in the immediate aftermath of the world’s largest atomic power disaster and still today, the government of Japan is focused on protecting the financial interests of the nuclear power corporations in Japan so they may build new reactors as well as continue to operate the old ones. Clearly, the steps taken by the government of Japan shows that the survival of the electric generating corporations like Hitachi, Toshiba, Tokyo Electric and others are more important to the Abe Government that the survival of 160,000 evacuees and the future of the food supply emanating from Japan’s agriculture and aquaculture.

Evacuees in Japan are being forced to move back to their community and their homes that remain radioactively contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi detonations and meltdowns. The government of Japan and the alleged global regulator, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – which was chartered by the United Nations (UN) to both promote and regulate atomic power generation – have raised the allowable public radiation level more than 20-times what it originally was rather than return to land to the condition it once was.

An exposé released in early February 2019 in The Washington Post said that, 

For six years, Namie was deemed unsafe after a multiple-reactor meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. In March 2017, the government lifted its evacuation order for the center of Namie. But hardly anyone has ventured back. Its people are scattered and divided. Families are split. The sense of community is coming apart…

As we at Fairewinds Energy Education have repeatedly said since the tragic 2011 meltdowns, understanding why the fate of the 160,000 evacuees from the toxic Fukushima landscape does not matter to the government of Japan, one must simply follow the money trail back to the corporations producing Japan’s electricity. As Fairewinds has noted from its personal experience, and what The Washington Post and the people of Japan clearly understand is that these meltdown refugees are simply pawns in a much bigger issue of money and politics. According to The Washington Post article,

For the people of Namie and other towns near the Fukushima plant, the pain is sharpened by the way the Japanese government is trying to move beyond the tragedy, to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as a symbol of hope and recovery, a sign that life can return to normal after a disaster of this magnitude…. Its charm offensive is also tied up with efforts to restart the country’s nuclear-power industry, one of the world’s most extensive networks of atomic power generation. [Emphasis Added].

Six Olympic softball games and a baseball game will be staged in Fukushima, the prefecture’s bustling and radiation-free capital city, and the Olympic torch relay will start from here.

To determine whether or not Olympic athletes might be affected by fallout emanating from the disaster site, Dr. Marco Kaltofen and I were sponsored by Fairewinds Energy Education to look at Olympic venues during the fall of 2017. We took simple dirt and dust samples along the Olympic torch route as well as inside Fukushima’s Olympic stadium and as far away as Tokyo. When the Olympic torch route and Olympic stadium samples were tested, we found samples of dirt in Fukushima’s Olympic Baseball Stadium that were highly radioactive, registering 6,000 Bq/kg of Cesium, which is 3,000 times more radioactive than dirt in the US. We also found that simple parking lot radiation levels were 50-times higher there than here in the US.

Thirty of the dirt and fine dust samples that I took on my last two trips to Japan in February and March 2016 and September 2017 were analyzed at WPI (Worchester Polytechnic Institute. The WPI laboratory analysis are detailed in the report entitled: Measuring Radioactivity in Soil and Dust Samples from Japan, T. Pham, S. Franca and S. Nguyen, Worchester Polytechnic Institute, which found that:

With the upcoming XXXII Olympiad in 2020 hosted by Japan, it is necessary to look into the radioactivity of Olympic venues as well as tourist attractions in the host cities… Since thousands of athletes and millions of visitors are traveling to Japan for the Olympics, there has been widespread concern from the international community about radiation exposure. Therefore, it is important to investigate the extent of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima Dai-ichi incident…

The measured results showed a much higher activity of Cesium-137 in the proposed torch route compared to other areas. Overall, the further away from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the lower the radioactivity. The activity of Cesium-137 in Tokyo, the furthest site from the plant, was the lowest when compared to the other sites. Therefore, the activity of Cesium-137 in Tokyo sample was used as the baseline to qualitatively estimate the human exposure to radiation.

.… At the Azuma Sports Park, the soil and dust samples yielded a range of 78.1 Bq/kg to 6176.0 Bq/kg. This particular Olympic venue is around 90 km from the Nuclear Power Plant. The other sites that are closer to the Nuclear Power Plant like the tourist route, proposed torch route, and non-Olympic samples have higher amounts due to the close proximity to ground zero of the disaster.

 … the proposed torch route samples had the highest mean radioactivity due to their close proximity to the plant. Based on the measurement, we estimated qualitatively that the radiation exposure of people living near the Azuma Sports Park area was 20.7 times higher than that of people living in Tokyo. The main tourist and proposed torch routes had radiation exposure of 24.6 and 60.6 times higher, respectively, than in Tokyo…. Olympic officials should consider using the results of this project to decide whether the radioactivity level at the proposed torch route and the Olympic venues are within acceptable level.

On a more personal note, I witnessed first-hand the ongoing radioactive devastation in and around the Namie area like that detailed in The Washington Post’s revealing and factual essay. During the two weeks I spent in and around Namie in September 2017 I took six short videos showing what the devastation looks and feels like up close. These short iPhone videos total less than 5-minutes of run time. I was on my own, without a videographer, so these short films probably lack the professional quality viewers may usually associate with Fairewinds, however, they do convey the very palpable feeling of gloom and emptiness pervading the ghost towns I visited. I am sharing the first three short videos in today’s blog. We will be releasing a Part 2 of this Fukushima update, which will feature another three short films.

Longtime Friends of Fairewinds may remember that back in 2011, Prime Minister Noda (he was between the ousted Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was PM when the Fukushima Meltdowns occurred and today’s Prime Minister Abe), claimed that the three melted down Fukushima reactors were in ‘cold shutdown’, which they were not, in order to lay the groundwork for Japan’s Olympic bid. Noda claimed “… we can consider the accident contained”. Fairewinds compared Noda’s “cold shutdown” hypocrisy to former President George Bush crowing about “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq. Sadly, what we said in 2011 still rings true today:

Is the Japanese government and the IAEA protecting the nuclear industry and not the people of Japan by claiming that Fukushima is stable when it is not? Fairewinds’ chief engineer Arnie Gundersen outlines major inconsistencies and double-speak by the IAEA, Japanese Government, and TEPCO claiming that the Fukushima accident is over. Dynamic versus static equilibrium, escalated dose exposures to the Japanese children and nuclear workers, and the blending of radioactive materials with non-contaminated material and spreading this contaminated ash throughout Japan are only a small part of this ongoing nuclear tragedy.

Later in 2013, Japan pressed the International Olympic Committee and bribed some of its members to accept the Olympics in 2020 according to an Associated Press article February 18, 2019 by Journalist Haruka Nuga.

Members of the JOC executive board are up for re-election this summer. There is speculation Takeda…[ Japanese Olympic Committee President Tsunekazu Takeda, who is being investigated for his part in an alleged bribery scandal] will not run, or could be replaced. French investigators believe he may have helped Tokyo win the 2020 Olympics in a vote by the International Olympic Committee.

Takeda has been JOC president since 2001. He is also a powerful IOC member and the head of its marketing commission. He has not stepped aside from either position while the IOC’s ethics committee investigates.

…French authorities suspect that about $2 million paid by the Tokyo bid committee — headed by Takeda — to a Singapore consulting company, Black Tidings, found its way to some IOC members in 2013 when Tokyo won the vote over bids from Istanbul and Madrid… Takeda last month acknowledged he signed off on the payments but denied corruption allegations. An internal report in 2016 by the Japanese Olympic Committee essentially cleared Takeda of wrongdoing.

Tokyo is spending at least $20 billion to organize the Olympics. Games costs are difficult to track, but the city of Tokyo appears to be picking up at least half the bill.

Much of Japan’s focus has been to show that the Fukushima area is safe and has recovered from a 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and the meltdowns at three nuclear reactors. [Emphasis Added]

Here is what I said in a video on Fairewinds website in 2013, when the original Tokyo Olympic announcement was made.

I think hosting the Olympics in 2020 is an attempt by the Japanese to change the topic. I don’t think people around the world are going to care until 2020 approaches. There is a seven-year window for the Japanese government to work to make Tokyo a showcase for the entire world to view. I think the Japanese government wanted to host the Olympics to improve the morale of the people of Japan after the Fukushima Daiichi accident. Unfortunately, it’s taking people’s attention off of the true cost of the accident, in terms of both money and public health.

Placing the Olympics in Tokyo was and still is a ploy to minimize the consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns and to take the public’s attention away from a pressing emergency that still needs resolution for the health and safety of the people of Japan.

Fairewinds Energy Education will keep you informed with Part 2, at fairewinds.org. ”

by Arnie Gundersen, edited by Maggie Gundersen, Fairewinds Energy Education

Thank you, Fairewinds, for your diligent reporting. 🙂

source with photos and videos

Fukushima’a other big problem: A Million tons of radioactive water — Wired

” The tsunami-driven seawater that engulfed Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has long since receded. But plant officials are still struggling to cope with another dangerous flood: the enormous amounts of radioactive water the crippled facility generates each day. More than 1 million tons of radiation-laced water is already being kept on-site in an ever-expanding forest of hundreds of hulking steel tanks—and so far, there’s no plan to deal with them.

The earthquake and tsunami that hammered Fukushima on March 11, 2011 triggered meltdowns in three of its six reactors. That left messes of intensely radioactive fuel somewhere loose in the reactor buildings—though no one knows exactly where. What is known, however, is that every day, as much as much as 150 tons of groundwater percolates into the reactors through cracks in their foundations, becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes in the process.

To keep that water from leaking into the ground or the Pacific, Tepco, the giant utility that owns the plant, pumps it out and runs it through a massive filtering system housed in a building the size of a small aircraft hangar. Inside are arrays of seven-foot tall stainless steel tubes, filled with sand grain-like particles that perform a process called ion exchange. The particles grab on to ions of cesium, strontium, and other dangerous isotopes in the water, making room for them by spitting out sodium. The highly toxic sludge created as a byproduct is stored elsewhere on the site in thousands of sealed canisters.

This technology has improved since the catastrophe. The first filtering systems, installed just weeks after the disaster by California-based Kurion Inc. (which has since been bought by Veolia, a French resource management company), only caught cesium, a strong gamma radiation emitter that makes it the most dangerous of the isotopes in the water. The tubes in those arrays were filled with highly modified grains of naturally occurring volcanic minerals called zeolites. By 2013, the company developed entirely artificial particles—a form of titano silicate—that also grab strontium.

The filters, however, don’t catch tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. That’s a much trickier task. Cesium and strontium atoms go into solution with the water, like sugar in tea; but tritium can bond with oxygen just like regular hydrogen, rendering the water molecules themselves radioactive. “It’s one thing to separate cesium from water, but how do you separate water from water?” asks John Raymont, Kurion’s founder and now president of Veolia’s nuclear solutions group. The company claims to have developed a system that can do the job, but Tepco has so far balked at the multi-billion dollar cost.

So for now, the tritiated water is pumped into a steadily growing collection of tanks. There are already hundreds of them, and Tepco has to start building a new one every four days.

Tepco has at least reduced the water’s inflow. As much as 400 tons per day was gushing in just a couple of years ago. In an effort to keep the groundwater from getting in, Tepco has built a network of pumps, and in 2016 installed an underground “ice wall”—a $300 million subterranean fence of 30-yard-long rods through which tons of sub-zero brine is pumped, freezing the surrounding earth. All of which helps, but hasn’t solved the problem.

Tritium is far less dangerous than cesium—it emits a weaker, lower-energy form of radiation. Still, all that tritiated water can’t just be stored indefinitely. “Some of those tanks and pipes will eventually fail. It’s inevitable,” says Dale Klein, a former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission who has been consulting with Tepco since the early days following the disaster. (In fact, hundreds of tons of water leaked out of the tanks in 2013 and 2014, sparking an international outcry. Tepco has since improved their design.)

Klein, among others, believes that the concentrations of tritium are low enough that the water can safely be released into the sea. “They should dilute and dispose of it,” he says. “It would be better to have a controlled release than an accidental one.”

But the notion of dumping tons of radioactive water into the ocean is understandably a tough sell. Whatever faith the Japanese public had left in Tepco took a further beating in the first couple of years after the meltdowns, when several investigations forced the company to acknowledge they had underreported the amount of radiation released during and after the disaster. Japan’s fishing industry raises a ruckus whenever the idea of dumping the tritiated water is broached; they already have to contend with import restrictions imposed by neighboring countries worried about eating contaminated fish. Japan’s neighbors including China, Korea, and Taiwan have also objected.

For now, all Tepco can do is keep building tanks, and hope that someone comes up with a solution before they run out of room—or the next earthquake hits. “

by Vince Beiser, Wired

source with internal links and photo

Fukushima nuclear plant: Tsunami wall could have avoided disaster but boss scrapped the plan, employee testifies — Newsweek

” A worker for the plant involved the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster said in a Japanese court Wednesday that his former boss was warned that a massive tsunami could strike the site, but delayed measures to build a protective wall to prevent it.

An unnamed employee of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that owns the ruined Fukushima Daiichi or No.1, Nuclear Power Plant testified during a trial this week that a 2008 safety test showed an earthquake could cause a tsunami as high as 52 feet capable of pounding the coastal facility, according to The Asahi Shimbun. The company was initially set to build a seawall, but the employee told the court that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto suddenly dismissed the idea.

The potentially catastrophic scenario was brought up again during a meeting on March 7, 2011, compelling shocked regulators to again recommend a wall to shield the facility, The Japan Times reported. But it was too late already: A magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck only four days later on March 11, 2011, leaving up to 18,500 people dead or missing and destroying the facility.

Three out of the six nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No.1 plant suffered devastating meltdowns. Muto, along with former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former TEPCO Vice President Ichiro Takekuro were indicted in February 2016 and are facing trial for suspected professional negligence resulting in death or injury after the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl incident in 1986.

The multi-billion dollar effort to recover the site is far past schedule and over budget, but the TEPCO has claimed some recent successes. Six years after the disaster, the melted nuclear fuel was finally founded at the bottom of the partially submerged reactors. The site was so radioactive, even the robots previously sent it could not traverse the deadly core.

Efforts to retrieve the fuel, however, have been hampered as the $324 million ice wall that penetrated 100 feet into the earth failed to stop groundwater from leaking into the site, as Reuters reported last month. In fact, the amount of groundwater seeping into the facility may have increased since the highly-anticipated ice wall was installed last August, amounting to the latest setback in a cleanup process already beset by seemingly endless complications and miscalculations.

Removing this water adds to an already growing storage crisis on the site. TEPCO deliberately added water to cool off the plant’s damaged reactors. After coming in contact with the plant, the coolant water and groundwater became tainted with a substance known as tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear process notoriously difficult to filter out of water. TEPCO has accumulated over 1 million tons of this tritium-laced water in 650 giant tanks, according to The Japan Times, and is urging the government to let the company begin dumping it into the ocean.

Some locals have protested this, however. While tritium was a natural byproduct of the nuclear process that experts have described as harmless in smaller doses and was dumped into oceans worldwide, Fukushima activists and fishermen have argued that dumping tritium, even in small quantities, would further hurt the reputation of the region, still synonymous with nuclear disaster. Nearby China and South Korea are among the nations that still restrict the import of certain products from Japan.

Lingering concerns about radiation have also reportedly kept many of the 160,000 residents that fled Fukushima from returning. Life, nevertheless, has begun to return to some parts of the crisis-stricken prefecture. The town of Okuma announced Wednesday that some citizens would be allowed to stay overnight starting next week for the first time since the March 2011 disaster, Japanese daily The Mainichi Shimbun said. ”

by Tom O’Connor, Newsweek

source with image and internal links