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Multiple challenges remain to Fukushima nuclear cleanup

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This Sept. 4, 2017 aerial photo shows Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant reactors, from bottom at right, Unit 1, Unit 2 and Unit 3, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. The three reactors that had meltdowns together have 1,573 units of mostly used nuclear fuel rods that are still inside and must be kept cool in pools of water. They are considered among the highest risks in the event of another major earthquake, because the pools are uncovered. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. or TEPCO, plans to begin removing the rods from reactor unit 3 in the fiscal year beginning next April 1. However, the latest roadmap delays removal of the rods from units 1 and 2 for three years until fiscal 2023, because further decontamination work and additional safety measures are needed.

Japan’s government approved on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017 a revision to the decommissioning plan for the Fukushima nuclear plant, delaying by two more years the removal of radioactive fuel rods in two of the three reactors damaged in the 2011 disaster. It still plans for melted fuel to be removed starting in 2021, but the lack of details about the duration raises doubts if the cleanup can be completed within 40 years. Kyodo News via AP, File)


TOKYO – Japan’s government approved a revised road map Tuesday to clean up the radioactive mess left at the Fukushima nuclear power plant after it was damaged beyond repair by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Decommissioning the damaged reactors is an uncertain process that is expected to take 30 to 40 years.

A look at some of the challenges:

THE FUEL RODS

The three reactors that had meltdowns together have 1,573 units of mostly used nuclear fuel rods that are still inside and must be kept cool in pools of water. They are considered among the highest risks in the event of another major earthquake that could trigger fuel rods to melt and release massive radiation due to loss of water from sloshing or structural damage because the pools are uncovered. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, plans to begin moving the rods from reactor Unit 3 in the fiscal year beginning April 1.


However, the latest road map delays removal of the rods from units 1 and 2 for three years until fiscal 2023, because further decontamination work and additional safety measures are needed. Ironically, because the building housing reactor 3 was more heavily damaged, it is easier to remove that unit’s fuel rods. The fuel rods will be moved to a storage pool outside the reactors, and eventually sent for long-term storage in what are known as dry casks.

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THE MELTED FUEL

By far the hardest part of decommissioning Fukushima will be removing the fuel that melted and presumably spilled out of the reactor cores. In July, an underwater robot for the first time captured images inside the primary containment chamber of Unit 3. They showed a large number of solidified lava-like rocks and lumps on the chamber’s floor, believed to be melted fuel mixed with melted and mangled equipment and parts of the structure.

The search for melted fuel in units 1 and 2 has so far been unsuccessful. The water level is lower, so crawling robots have been tried, but they have been obstructed by debris as well as extremely high radiation levels. Despite the unknowns about the melted fuel and debris and their whereabouts, the road map calls for finalizing the removal method in 2019, and starting actual removal at one of the reactors in 2021. The government-funded International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning is developing robots and other technology to carry out the work.

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CONTAMINATED WATER

TEPCO has treated and stored a massive amount of radioactive water — about 800,000 tons — and the volume is growing every day. Cooling water leaks out of the damaged reactors and mixes with groundwater that seeps into the basements of the reactor building, increasing the amount of contaminated water. The utility has managed to halve the volume to 200 tons per day by pumping up groundwater via dozens of wells dug upstream from the reactors, as well as installing a costly “ice wall” by freezing the ground to block some of the water from coming in and going out.

The water is stored in hundreds of tanks that cover much of the plant property. They get in the way of decommissioning work and pose another risk if they were to spill out their contents in another major earthquake or tsunami. After treatment, the water still contains radioactive tritium, which cannot be removed but is not considered harmful in small amounts. Experts say controlled release of the water into the ocean is the only realistic option, but TEPCO has not moved forward with that plan because of opposition from fishermen and residents who fear a negative image and possible health impact.

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RADIOACTIVE WASTE

Japan has yet to develop a plan to dispose of the highly radioactive waste that will come out of the Fukushima reactors. Under the road map, the government and TEPCO will compile a basic plan during fiscal 2018. Managing the waste will require new technologies to compact it and reduce its toxicity. Finding a storage site for the waste seems virtually impossible, as the government has not been able to find a site even for the normal radioactive waste from its nuclear power plants. The prospect raises doubts about whether the cleanup can really be completed within 40 years.

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http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article175387901.html

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Spent Nuclear Fuel Removal at Fukushima Plant Delayed Again

Japan muddles on with Fukushima’s melted and “spent” fuel. The three year delay for emptying the reactors “spent” irradiated nuclear fuel into a dry cask storage runs the risk of another major earthquake causing a loss of cooling in the pools without containments and another major release of radiation. Plans for removing the melted reactor cores from Units 1, 2 and 3 still defied by inability to locate it.

 

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Fukushima Nuclear Plant Scrapping Plan Faces Another Delay

A key decision in decommissioning the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is being delayed. The Japanese government and operator made the announcement on Tuesday while giving an update on the roadmap for scrapping the plant.

In their first such update in 2 years, officials said they will postpone their decision on the method for removing molten fuel debris by one year, until fiscal 2019.

Experts believe that when the plant went into triple meltdown in 2011, most of the fuel inside the reactors collected at the bottom of containment vessels. They still don’t know the exact location, but possible molten fuel debris was caught on camera in July. The removal of this debris is considered the most challenging part of the plant’s decommissioning.

Originally, officials considered filling the containment vessels with water to block radiation while removing the debris. But now, they say they’re leaning towards a method called dry removal.

Experts say that method comes with safety challenges. “Because the containment vessel will not be filled with water, there is a possibility that radioactive substances may leak and get dispersed,” says Hosei University Visiting Professor Hiroshi Miyano.

Officials also gave an update on plans for the removal of spent nuclear fuel rods in 2 of the plants reactors. The rods are in storage pools and won’t be removed until fiscal 2023. That’s 3 years later than planned. The official timeline for scrapping the plant remains the same — about 30 to 40 years in total.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/nhknewsline/nuclearwatch/fukushimanuclearplantscrapping/

Spent nuclear fuel removal at Fukushima plant pushed back again

n-roadmap-a-20170927-870x438Cabinet ministers attend a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office on Tuesday to discuss a delay in the road map for decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

 

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. decided Tuesday to further delay the removal of spent nuclear fuel left near two of the three reactors that suffered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

In the road map for decommissioning the plant, revised for the fourth time since it was first crafted in 2011, highly radioactive spent fuel will be extracted from the cooling pools of reactors 1 and 2 starting in fiscal 2023 instead of fiscal 2020.

The decision marks the third delay for the removal plan, with the last adjustment coming in June 2015. The government said new technical issues and the need to take safety precautions led to the latest change.

The cleanup process is set to be completed in around 30 to 40 years.

Spent fuel removal at the plant’s reactor 3 will go ahead in fiscal 2018 as planned, having already been pushed back earlier this year.

In the decommissioning process, the removal of fuel rod assemblies from the spent fuel pools in reactor buildings is one of the key steps before extracting melted fuel debris. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered core meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The removal of melted fuel debris has also been delayed, with an extraction plan set to be decided in fiscal 2019, pushed back from the first half of fiscal 2018.

Despite the delay in finalizing specific methods, the road map maintains a 2021 start for debris extraction, the most challenging part of the decommissioning process.

A method currently considered feasible by the government involves removing debris from the sides of the reactors after partially filling them with water.

The road map newly sets the goal of cutting the amount of underground water at the plant to address contaminated water buildup. Underground water — which gets mixed with accumulated radioactive water generated in the process of cooling the damaged reactors — is to be cut to around 150 tons per day in 2020 from the current 200 tons.

The road map does not mention a specific schedule for the disposal of processed water that still contains radioactive tritium.

The plan was first crafted in December 2011 in the wake of the meltdowns, the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Attempts have been made to confirm the situation inside the damaged reactors using specialized robots. A survey in July this year captured for the first time images of what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel at the bottom of reactor 3.

Isamu Kaneda, deputy mayor of the Fukushima Prefecture town of Futaba, expressed regret over the delay.

The town’s rebuilding depends on the development of decommissioning. It’s unfortunate,” Kaneda said. “But at the same time, the decommissioning process is an unprecedented project. It needs to be conducted carefully, so we can’t just ask them to speed it up.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/26/national/spent-nuclear-fuel-removal-fukushima-plant-pushed-back/#.WcqxGxdx3rc

Spent nuclear fuel removal at Fukushima plant to be delayed again

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TOKYO (Kyodo) — The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. decided Tuesday to delay again the start of removing spent nuclear fuel left near two of the three reactors which suffered a meltdown at the Fukushima complex.

In the road map for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant, revised for the fourth time since it was first crafted in December 2011, highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel will be extracted from the Nos. 1 and 2 units’ cooling pools starting in fiscal 2023 instead of fiscal 2020.

It is the third time that the schedule for spent fuel removal has been pushed back at the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors, with the previous postponement taking place in June 2015. The government said new technical issues and the need to take safety precautions led to the latest schedule change.

The cleanup process is to be completed in around 30 to 40 years.

For the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima plant, the schedule to remove spent nuclear fuel during fiscal 2018 is unchanged after having already been pushed back earlier this year.

In the decommissioning process, taking out fuel rod assemblies from the spent fuel pools inside reactor buildings is one of the key steps before extracting melted fuel debris from the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors, all of which suffered core meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The schedule for extraction of the melted fuel debris at the reactors was also revised, with the determination of a specific approach to remove the debris to be made in fiscal 2019, rather than in the originally planned first half of fiscal 2018.

Despite the delay in finalizing specific methods, the road map kept the start of the debris extraction, the most challenging part of the decommissioning process, at 2021.

A method currently considered feasible by the government is debris removal from the side of the three crippled reactors by partially filling them with water.

The road map newly sets the goal of cutting the amount of underground water at the plant to address contaminated water buildup at the site. Underground water, which gets mixed with accumulated radioactive water generated in the process of cooling the damaged reactors — is to be cut to around 150 tons per day in 2020 from the current 200 tons.

It did not mention a specific schedule for disposal of processed water that still contains radioactive tritium.

The road map was first crafted in December 2011 in the wake of the 2011 disaster which triggered at the Fukushima plant the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Attempts have been made to confirm internal conditions of the damaged reactors using robots. A survey robot captured images of what is likely to be melted nuclear fuel at the bottom of the No. 3 reactor for the first time in July this year.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170926/p2g/00m/0dm/064000c

 

September 26, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

September 26 Energy News

geoharvey

Opinion:

¶ “Wholesale market crisis” • Sustained low wholesale power prices are driving coal, nuclear and even gas plant retirements, pushing independent power producers into the red, and spurring reforms of wholesale market structures. But even PV is not immune to these trends. pv magazine looks at the implications for the solar industry. [pv magazine USA]

Natural gas and electric power

¶ “How Renewable Energy Can Accelerate the Microgrid Revolution” • Since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas the US Energy Department has been flooding the media with news about its work on grid resiliency. Much of the message is about the importance of the microgrids that integrate distributed renewable energy resources. [Triple Pundit]

World:

¶ BYD, an auto and battery manufacturer based in China, is expecting that China’s shift to “new energy vehicles” – battery electric vehicles, hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, etc – will be…

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September 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can climate change affect volcanic activity?

Summit County Citizens Voice

Vesuvius is part of a volcanic region that became more active when the Mediterranean Sea dried up about 5 million years ago. A study of the era suggests climate change can influence volcanic activity. @bberwyn photo.

Study suggests link between sea level and eruptions

Staff Report

European researchers say they’ve found more evidence supporting links between climate change and volcanic activity.

Geologists from Switzerland, France and Spain studied compared data on eruptions and climate from about 5 million years ago, finding that volcanic activity in southern Europe doubled during a time when the Mediterranean Sea dried up. They suspect that the changes on the surface contributed to the way magma behaves deep in the Earth.

The era they studied is known as the Messinian salinity crisis, when the Strait of Gibraltar was blocked and the Mediterranean temporarily isolated from the Atlantic, according to the study published in Nature Geoscience.

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September 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Opponents to Burying Nuclear Waste in Clay Atop a Geothermal Source Raided By French Police

Mining Awareness +

Residents near the proposed French nuclear waste facility in Bure France have demonstrated that within 16 minutes the “argillite” clay of this high level nuclear storage site dissolves into gravel clumps. This is because it is hard materials held together by soft materials. If that isn’t insane enough, it is also on top of a geothermal resource site, apparently a hot springs. So, nuclear waste, clay and hot springs! As there are well-known hot springs within the region, including at Nancy, it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.
Streetview Bure France
Google Streetview of Bure, France (Images saved Jan. 2015.) Note anti-nuclear house and how much the lab and proposed nuclear waste dump has done (NOT) for Bure’s economy, as illustrated in the housing.

Cows near Bure-l’Andra. The French government is picking on a poor rural area with apparently little voting or economic clout.
cows near Bure

While there is no good place or means of…

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September 26, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment