Fishermen OK Tepco plan to dump water from wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant into sea — The Japan Times

” FUKUSHIMA – Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture on Tuesday approved a plan by Tokyo Electric Power Co. to take contaminated groundwater that’s continuously flowing into the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and dump it into the ocean after removing most of the radioactive materials from it.

Tepco hopes the measure will curb the amount of toxic water that’s building up at the complex. Local fishermen had long opposed the plan amid concern it would pollute the ocean and contaminate marine life.

“I don’t know if it’s acceptable for all fishery operators, but stable work of decommissioning (of the Fukushima plant) is necessary for the revival of Fukushima’s fishery industry,” Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, told reporters after a board meeting.

He also called on Tepco to ensure it will only discharge water that does not contain radioactive materials exceeding the legally allowed limit.

The amount of toxic water is piling up every day. Tainted groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings and mixing with radioactive water generated through cooling the reactors, which suffered meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

By pumping up water through drainage wells and dumping it into the ocean after treating it, Tepco said it will be able to halve some 300 tons of contaminated water that’s being generated each day.

In exchange for approving the plan, the Fukushima fisherman’s association on Aug. 11 demanded among other things that the government and Tepco continue paying the fishermen compensation for as long as the nuclear plant damages their business.

On Tuesday, the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations also gave the green light to releasing the treated water into the sea.

Tepco has been struggling to deal with the toxic water that has been building up at the plant since 2011, with radiation leaks into the environment still occurring regularly at the Fukushima complex.

The company is also behind schedule on a project to build a huge underground ice wall, another measure Tepco hopes will prevent radioactive water from increasing further at the site. ”

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Updated 5/28: Radio Australia; Tepco pumping contaminated groundwater into the Pacific — ShanghaiDaily.com, Nikkei Asian Review, The Guardian

Added 5/28: “Tepco dumps groundwater near Fukushima into Pacific ocean” from Radio Australia

ShanghaiDaily.com:

” TOKYO, May 21 (Xinhua) — Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the stricken Daiichi nuclear power station in Fukushima Prefecture, said Wednesday it had started dumping hundreds of tons of radioactive groundwater from its plant into the Pacific Ocean.

TEPCO said the levels of radioactivity of the groundwater being released were within legal radiation safety limits and will follow the World Health Organizations guidelines that groundwater for such releases should contain less than 1 becquerel per liter of cesium-134 and cesium-137, 5 becquerels of beta ray-emitting radioactive material.

The move to dump the huge amount of toxic water was unavoidable, TEPCO said, due to the massive volumes of contaminated water building up and failing to be decontaminated and maintained inside the complex.

The embattled utility has been struggling to deal with a number of problems and human errors at the leaking plant, since its reactors’ key cooling functions were knocked out by a huge earthquake-triggered tsunami in March 2011.

The utility is still grappling to deal with the daily accumulation of around 400 tons of highly radioactive water, with the same volume of groundwater seeping into the basement of reactor buildings where it’s being mixed with the reactors’ highly toxic coolant water.

Following protracted negotiations, local fishermen finally agreed to the release of the contaminated water into the Pacific Wednesday, once they’d been convinced that the contaminated water would not adversely affect their business, but the agreement came as the utility had to deal with a fresh headache involving the breakdown of a water treatment system for the highly contaminated water held in thousands of makeshift tanks.

A water treatment facility called the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), installed to remove the most dangerous nuclides, was completely shut down again this week and has not been fully operational since it was installed nearly two years ago, causing the manager of TEPCO to state that the repeated leaks and technical malfunctions at the plant have been a constant ” embarrassment”.

TEPCO has pumped a total of 560 tons of groundwater from wells dug in the mountainside of the plant with the operation beginning on April 9 and finishing five days later, and having confirmed that the radiation levels have met legal criteria and will release into the ocean Wednesday using a bypass system that funnels the contaminated water towards the Pacific.

Similarly, around 790 tons of groundwater collected last year will be also be released imminently, although TEPCO officials have declined to specify exactly when.

TEPCO has confirmed, however, that it plans to dump around 100 tons a day of groundwater from the crippled plant into the ocean, once the bypass system goes fully operational, although concerns remain rife as the trouble-stricken utility has again come under fire Wednesday, following the Asahi Shimbun newspaper reporting that based on official unreleased documents, some 90 percent of all workers, including managers duty-bound to deal with emergencies, refused orders and fled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, at a critical juncture when the disaster was unfolding in March 2011.

“Amid fears that a reactor containment vessel had been destroyed, around 650, or 90 percent, of the approximately 720 workers at the plant left the premises despite being told to remain at the site by the plant’s manager, Masao Yoshida,” the newspaper said.

TEPCO, despite receiving a massive injection of capital to bring the crisis in Fukushima under control at the beginning of this year, has also been slammed by Nuclear Regulation Authority ( NRA) Chairman Shunichi Tanaka for incorrectly measuring levels of radioactive materials in groundwater at its Daiichi facility.

Tanaka has said that even though three years has passed since the reactor meltdowns at the plant, TEPCO is still “utterly inept” when it comes to taking accurate readings of radioactivity at and around its facilities and “lacks a basic understanding of measuring and handling radiation.” … ”

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Nikkei Asian Review:

” FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Wednesday dumped into the Pacific Ocean hundreds of tons of groundwater collected at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex after having confirmed that its radiation level met safety guidelines.
Under a so-called groundwater bypass system, the groundwater was pumped out without approaching the heavily contaminated area of the complex site. By repeating the pumping and dumping, TEPCO aims to slow the pace of highly radioactive water accumulating at the plant. …

… TEPCO pumped a total of about 560 tons of groundwater from wells dug in the mountainside of the plant between April 9 and 14, after confirming that the radiation levels satisfied the criteria before the planned release. The utility spent more than 2 hours on Wednesday discharging the water that had been kept in a tank.
TEPCO plans to gradually increase the volume of groundwater pumped from the wells. If the groundwater bypass system goes into full operation, water discharge may take place around once a week, but the pace could change depending on how much water has to be pumped. … ”

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Read a similar article from The Guardian.

August water leak at No. 1 far more toxic than announced: Tepco — The Japan Times

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday that toxic water found to have leaked last August at one of the huge tanks at the accident-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was far more contaminated than initially announced.

After recalculating the radiation level, Tepco said the water contained 280 million becquerels per liter of beta ray-emitting radioactive materials such as strontium-90, instead of 80 million becquerels.

A total of 300 tons of toxic water was found to have leaked at that time, part of which is believed to have flowed into the adjacent Pacific Ocean. The Nuclear Regulation Authority assessed the severity of the incident to be level 3 on an eight-point international scale.

Tepco decided to review data on 173 water samples it took until last October, as it found readings may be lower than actual figures due to improper measurement formulas.

As for 104 samples, Tepco analyzed them again as it had kept them. But the utility did not have the remaining 69 samples, including the water that leaked, so it calculated the radiation level by using a theoretical formula. ”

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Tepco haunted by mismanagement: Glaring errors have met utility’s cleanup effort at nearly every turn — The Japan Times

” Tepco has been walking a tightrope at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant for the last three years, and many of its missteps have been glaring.

Having to clean up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl was never going to be simple or easy, but senior officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co. have been forced time and again to apologize for serious problems.

Most recently, just weeks before the three-year anniversary of the start of the catastrophe, they had to admit that 100 tons of highly toxic water had leaked from one of the huge tanks set up at the site.

Tackling the buildup of highly radioactive water is proving to be a major challenge in the decommissioning process.

The direct cause of the incident was the mishandling of a valve operation, which caused contaminated water to flow into a tank that was already nearly full.

But what was more disturbing was how workers had overlooked the signs that something was wrong. The incident triggered renewed concerns over Tepco’s ability to oversee the ongoing cleanup.

“If we had acted with more care after hearing an alarm warning of a rise in the tank’s water level, we would have been able to minimize the consequences,” Tepco spokesman Masayuki Ono told a news conference after the company announced the leak Feb. 20, referring to an alarm that went off more than nine hours before workers found water spilling from the tank’s lid.

Because the water-level readings showed irregular movements following the alarm and because people on patrol were not able to find any trace of a leak near the tank in the two hours or so after the warning sounded, the utility judged that the water-level gauge had malfunctioned.

But Ono admitted that workers could have noticed the leak sooner had they gone up on the 10-meter-tall tank to check how much water it contained or if workers in a control room had paid attention to data showing that the water level in tanks designated to receive the water was not rising.

Officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority have pointed to the need for Tepco to become more vigilant and criticized its tendency to blame abnormal data readings on mechanical failures.

“I think it is extremely important that workers assume the worst when instruments show abnormal movements, considering that the crippled plant is barely being managed,” one NRA official said.

Further efforts to eliminate human error are extremely important until the water stored in the sprawling tank farms can be decontaminated more quickly and bolted-joint tanks are replaced with more reliable containers.

Currently, a large portion of the radioactive water stored in tanks has been sent through a facility that can reduce cesium. But it still contains high concentrations of radioactive substances such as strontium, which is believed by medical authorities to cause leukemia and other kinds of bone cancer.

Tepco has said it wants to drastically reduce the radiation level of all the highly toxic water kept in tanks by the end of March 2015. The problematic water totaled some 340,000 tons as of Feb. 11.

Yet Tepco has not even finished testing a trouble-plagued system that is reportedly capable of removing 62 different types of radioactive material from the contaminated water, with the exception of tritium.

While Tepco plans to boost the processing capacity of the facility, called ALPS, an acronym standing for advanced liquid processing system, another official admitted that scrubbing the water by the end of fiscal 2014 is “an extremely lofty goal” that won’t be met unless the system can achieve a high operating rate.

Trying to address another festering wound, the next 12 months or so will be a crucial period in the unprecedented attempt to create a barrier of frozen soil around the basement areas of the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.

The barrier of ice, which Tepco aims to start operating by the end of March 2015, is intended to block groundwater from seeping into the reactor buildings’ basement areas and mixing with highly toxic water used to cool the plant’s three crippled reactors.

Should the project be successful, it will represent major progress in fundamentally addressing the buildup of toxic water, which is increasing at a rate of 400 tons a day.

But whether it will work remains to be seen as impermeable walls of this nature, used in civil engineering works such as subway construction, have never before been created on such a large scale and have not been operated for more than around two years.

Last year, as concerns grew over leaving the huge workload of cleaning up and decommissioning Fukushima No. 1 to Tepco alone, the Abe administration decided to directly fund technically challenging projects that will help contain the toxic water buildup, including the frozen barrier, and the government is moving ahead to strengthen its monitoring of the plant’s decommissioning process.

Akira Watanabe, a professor at Fukushima University, said local people are encouraged by the central government’s increased financial support as they fear the nuclear complex might not be scrapped should Tepco’s business conditions worsen.

But Watanabe, who serves as a member of the NRA’s panel monitoring safety measures at Fukushima No. 1, is skeptical that government support alone will bring a change to the overall situation.

“I believe one of the major reasons behind the poor safety management is that Tepco has no option but to rely on massive numbers of subcontractor workers, six or seven layers in some cases,” Watanabe said. “I wonder whether safety can be managed by a company out of touch with workers involved in various operations at the plant.” ”

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