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Radioactive waste from contaminated water treatment, cleanup postponed. What we saw at the storage site of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

A facility for storing concentrated liquid waste after evaporation of highly contaminated water. Light blue tanks are lined up behind thick concrete walls. Inside the wall is a maximum of 800 microsieverts per hour at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

March 11, 2022
The contaminated water containing high concentrations of radioactive materials that continues to be generated at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Okuma and Futaba towns, Fukushima Prefecture) is creating contaminated waste in the process of treatment and storage. On April 2, this paper’s team entered the plant premises and visited the storage site. TEPCO and the government plan to discharge the contaminated water into the ocean in the spring of 2023, but the cleanup of the massive amount of radioactive waste has been postponed. (Kenta Onozawa)

◆Enriched liquid waste “To be honest, there is no concrete plan.
We honestly don’t have a concrete plan for how to dispose of the waste,” said a TEPCO spokesperson with a pained expression on his face in a corner of the vast tank area on the west side of Units 1 through 4. In front of us, a covered shed surrounded by concrete walls. A horizontal light blue tank could be seen through a gap in the wall. The dosimeter he had brought with him read around 0.5 microsieverts per hour in the tank area, but the reading jumped to 4 microsieverts per hour near the hut.
 The contents of the tank, which emitted intense radiation through the 20-centimeter-thick concrete, were “concentrated liquid waste” generated immediately after the accident. It is the precipitate from the process of desalinating highly contaminated water, which contained salt from the tsunami, and reusing it to cool the nuclear reactors.
 The muddy condition makes it difficult to treat, and the high radiation dose makes it inaccessible; when Fukushima Prefecture checked the site in January 2008, the maximum radiation dose inside the wall was 800 microsieverts per hour. This is the annual exposure limit for an average person after spending one hour and 20 minutes at the site.
 There are 200 cubic meters of muddy liquid waste and 9,000 tons of supernatant water. The contaminated water treatment process has stabilized and will not increase any further. TEPCO plans to begin experimental treatment in FY2011, but has not even begun to verify the method.

◆Contaminated plastic in “untouchable” reservoirs
To the north of the shed, there is a clearing that rises up like a ring, where the underground reservoir that caused the contaminated water leak in 2001 is buried.
 At the time, the storage of contaminated water was on a tightrope. TEPCO, under pressure, dug a hole where a tank could not be built directly under the power lines, covered it with a water shield sheet, and filled it with a total of 24,000 tons of contaminated water, which mainly contained radioactive strontium. However, the water leaked underground and could no longer be used.
 Although the contaminated water has been drained out, the plastic materials that were placed in the pond as reinforcement remain heavily contaminated. Standing on the pond, the dosimeter quickly read 3 microsieverts per hour. The spokesperson said in a low voice, “I think we could have removed the contaminated water if we had filled it with purified water, but now that we have filled it with contaminated water, it’s hard to do anything about it.

◆Waste continues to accumulate
 The treated water that is planned to be discharged into the ocean is water that has been purified by a multinuclide removal system (ALPS). The treatment process also generates muddy waste, which is stored in a polyethylene container (1.5 meters in diameter, 1.8 meters high, and about 1 centimeter thick) called an HIC.
 In the storage area on the south side of the site, the top of the HIC was visible inside the concrete wall. Some of the HICs containing high-dose sludge have already exceeded their useful life, and the number of such HICs will reach 87 at the end of FY2010. There are fears that they may break due to deterioration, and they are under pressure to be transferred to new containers. However, it has taken time to set up measures to protect the workers from radiation exposure, and the replacement of the heavily contaminated containers only began on February 22.
 Once the discharge of treated water into the ocean begins, the number of storage tanks, which number approximately 1,000, will gradually decrease. However, there is no plan to eliminate the generation of contaminated water, and the purification process will continue. In the meantime, waste from the treatment process will continue to accumulate, so it is unacceptable to postpone the consideration of a long-term management method.

March 11, 2022 - Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , ,

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