The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope


Fukushima disaster followed by four-year litany of failures costing hundreds of millions  VERY GOOD PHOTOS  MARCH 26, 2015 THE tragedy of Fukushima is far from over, a whole four years after 18,000 people died when the Daiichi nuclear power plant was destroyed by a tsunami and earthquake.

Japanese government auditors have revealed that more than a third of the $2 billion of taxpayer money dedicated to the clean-up has been wasted.

Tourists are returning to the region as radiation fears fade, and there are plans to host events in the area for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, yet the region is in chaos, seemingly cursed by a litany of failures and screw-ups.

  • RADIOACTIVE RAINWATER Radioactivity around the plant remains above acceptable levels, and no one has been able to bring it under control, largely because of the daily 300 tons of rainwater that is contaminated as it flows through the site.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co, which owns the site, spent 2.1 billion yen ($A22million) on seven vast underground pools to hold the water, but they leaked within weeks. So the utility spent another 16 billion yen on above-ground storage tanks, filling them with 500,000 tons of radioactive water, according to Time. The shoddy tanks, built with rubber seals by unskilled workers, also started leaking radioactive water into the ground and the ocean, and are now being replaced with more durable welded ones.Gizmodo claims it took Tepco almost a year to report the latest leak.

  • BAD IDEASThe underground pools and tanks didn’t work out too well, but the bad ideas brigade were not discouraged.

    The team embarked on a 100 million yen project to contain the water in a maintenance tunnel by freezing. That failed because the water never completely froze. Tepco subsidiary Tokyo Power Technology even tried throwing in chunks of ice, but eventually had to pour in cement to seal the trench.

    Then, Tepco had the brainwave of blocking the radioactive water with a 1.5-km-longsunken “ice wall” of frozen soil encircling the stricken reactors, Japan Timesreported. The only problem being that an ice wall of its size has never been attempted before, and no one knows if it would work. Last week, the power company announced that the plan had been postponed.

  • TECHNICAL ERRORSFollowing the initial crisis, sea water was used to cool the reactors after the normal cooling systems failed. Machines costing 18.4 billion yen were purchased from companies including Hitachi GE Nuclear Energy, Toshiba Corp. and Areva, to remove salt from the contaminated water at the plant. One machine functioned for just five days, the longest lasted six weeks.

    “The cores are still there and highly radioactive. The technology to approach the cores does not exist yet,” James Corbett from Fukushima Update told October. “Just last week (October 2014) they had a typhoon and in the wake of that they found 10 times the radioactivity in the groundwater than in the week before.”

    He said the problem looks set to go on for decades, with Tepco unable to do much more than damage control.

  • DUMP ITFrench company Areva, which supplied some of the failed machines, had another suggestion to help the cleanup. The process has been strongly criticised in Europe by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, doctors, and environmental watchdogs and has been blamed for leukaemia and polluted beaches, Forbes reported.

    It involves adding metals and chemicals to the radioactive waste water used to cool reactors, which bind to isotopes and pull them down. This sludge is removed and buried like traditional nuclear waste, while the water is recirculated — in Areva’s European plant, it’s released straight into the English Channel.

    And according to Gizmodo, Areva’s $270 million machine bought to treat Fukushima’s water was abandoned after just a few months.

  • CONTAMINATED SOILThe environment ministry plans to gradually move contaminated soil from more than 75,000 locations in local areas to a facility in Okuma, reported Japan News.

    The facility is planned in a coastal area of about 1,600 hectares and would be capable of storing up to 22 million cubic metres of soil and radioactive waste for a maximum of 30 years.

    But the land is linked to more than 2300 landowners and, perhaps not surprisingly, only one land sales contract has been agreed. The government has acquired less than one per cent of the land they need and is likely to face construction challenges because of high radiation.

  • HOMELESSAround 160,000 people were forced from their homes after Japan’s environment ministry labelled 11 municipalities “no-go zones”. They are living in temporary housing or with relatives while authorities decontaminate the area, and daily radiation checks are part of life.

    But the Japanese Red Cross says that while major facilities such as hospitals or nursery homes are being completed, there is a go-slow on the rebuilding of permanent homes. Japan Times reported that the earliest repatriation efforts won’t be until 2017.

    The events have also led to protests across Japan from people who want to switch off nuclear power for good. “There has been considerable progress in overall recovery from the devastation,” said Tadateru Konoe, President of the JRC. “However, there have been critical delays in rebuilding communities. Particular attention must be given to the needs of many elderly and other vulnerable people who have been unable to get back on their feet.”

  • ANOTHER CHENOBYL?The journal Science said earlier this month that the real problem is missing nuclear reactor fuel.

    Two detectors were installed outside the first reactor ruins in February to generate an X-ray-like image of the containment vessel, but have found nothing.

    Some of it may have melted through the base pad into the lower level basement or ground below, as one of the flows at Chernobyl did.

    The Chernobyl “elephant’s foot” formation melted three metres into granite. If the Fukushima corium made it to the ground underneath the plant, it is likely to have spread much further and be much more difficult to retrieve, even as an “underground river” of groundwater picks up contamination and takes it out to the ocean.

  • FORGING AHEADRight now, it’s hard to see Fukushima as anything other than an unmitigated disaster zone with gloomy prospects. Yet despite the terrifying evidence, the Japanese government plans to welcome 20 million visitors from across the world to the area for Olympic events in just five years.

    The exclusion zone around the plant has shrunk and tourists are returning to the country, encouraged by cheap prices for food and accomodation. But plant workers say their job is dangerous and underpaid.

    Fukushima produce is now sold throughout Japan, and more than 283 food productsimported from the radiation-stricken areas were yesterday found to have been relabelled as coming from other areas of Japan.

    Open discussion of the disaster is frowned upon in a country that prioritises a harmonious public face, reported Fukushima Update. But with the authorities apparently focused on downplaying the situation ahead of the Tokyo Games, this is one conversation that needs to happen.


March 27, 2015 - Posted by | Fukushima 2015

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