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Release of treated water from Fukushima Daiichi: TEPCO applies for implementation plan to the Regulatory Commission

December 21, 2021

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has announced its plan for the release of treated water containing tritium and other radioactive substances that continues to accumulate at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) held a press conference on April 21 and announced that it has applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for an implementation plan in line with the government’s policy that the treated water that continues to accumulate at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant will be discharged into the sea in the spring of the next year after being diluted to a concentration below the standard.

The plan describes the procedure for diluting the treated water with seawater and the design of an undersea tunnel to be constructed to release the diluted water from 1 km offshore.

After receiving approval from the regulatory board and gaining the understanding of the local community and other related parties, the company plans to start construction of the equipment to dilute the treated water with seawater and the undersea tunnel around June next year, aiming to complete the work around the middle of April next year in accordance with the national policy.

Junichi Matsumoto, the executive officer of TEPCO who is in charge of the plan, said, “Based on the government’s policy, we would like to explain the plan to the local community and many related parties in parallel with the regulatory committee’s examination, and study specific designs and operations to ensure safety.

With regard to the release of treated water being promoted by the government and TEPCO, there are deep-rooted concerns about harmful rumors, especially among local residents, and the issues that remain to be addressed are how to gain the understanding of those concerned and how to take effective measures to deal with the rumors.

What is “treated water”?
At the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, so-called “contaminated water” is being generated at a rate of 140 tons per day, including water used to cool the nuclear fuel in Units 1-3 that melted down in the accident 10 years ago, as well as groundwater that flows into the buildings.

The contaminated water is treated in a special purification system to remove most of the radioactive materials, but the water containing tritium, a radioactive material that is difficult to remove, or “treated water,” remains and is stored on the plant grounds.

According to the current plan, 1.37 million tons of water can be stored in a large tank on the site, but more than 90% of the tank is already filled with treated water, and it is expected to be full after next fall.

Therefore, the government has decided to dilute the treated water to less than 1/40th of the standard by adding seawater and discharge it into the sea around the spring of 2023, as it is unlikely to affect human health if the concentration is reduced below the standard.

What is the outlook for the future?
The implementation plan applied for by TEPCO will be reviewed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission will examine the plan, which includes the following: (1) measures against natural disasters, such as equipment to dilute the treated water with seawater and an undersea tunnel, and (2) a function to stop the release of water in case of abnormalities.

Toyoshi Sarada, chairman of the regulatory board, said, “There are no major technical difficulties in diluting and checking the concentration of the treated water, and it will not take a long time.

On the other hand, there are deep-rooted concerns about the release of treated water, especially in the local community, and Mr. Sarada pointed out that “the understanding of the local community and other related parties is extremely important, and even if the plan is approved, the period until the start of construction is unpredictable.

On April 20, TEPCO submitted a “Request for Prior Approval,” which is required for the construction of new facilities and expansion of facilities, to Fukushima Prefecture and the municipalities of Futaba and Okuma.

In addition, the construction work is expected to take about a year, so the government’s goal of releasing treated water in the spring of 2023 is still uncertain.

After TEPCO reported to fishermen in Iwaki that it had applied to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for a plan to release treated water, Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said, “It’s unfortunate and frustrating that we have been opposed to the release of treated water into the ocean, but we are moving forward without hesitation. We want them to think of other ways. We have no choice but to send out the message that fishermen are against it.

December 21, 2021 - Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , ,

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