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Danger in foreign workers at Fukushim nuclear clean-up – Tepco abandons plans for them

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May 23, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Highly radioactive chimney at Fukushima No 1 plant to be taken apart

TEPCO to slice dangerous chimney at Fukushima plant    http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905100045.html, By CHIKAKO KAWAHARA/ Staff Writer, May 10, 2019 Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to start work on May 20 to dismantle a 120-meter-tall, highly contaminated chimney that could collapse at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It will be the first highly radiated facility at the plant to be taken apart, the company said May 9.

The stack, with a diameter of 3.2 meters, was used for both the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. TEPCO plans to remove the upper half of the chimney within this year to prevent the structure from collapsing.

The dismantling work will be conducted by remote control because the radiation level around the base of the chimney is the highest among all outdoor areas of the plant. Exposure to radiation at the base can cause death in several hours.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011, pressure increased in the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor. Vapors with radioactive substances were sent through the chimney to the outside.

TEPCO also found fractures in steel poles supporting the chimney. The damage was likely caused by a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor building when the nuclear disaster was unfolding.

Since then, the chimney has been left unrepaired because of the high radiation levels.

Immediately after the nuclear accident, a radiation level exceeding 10 sieverts per hour was observed around the base of the chimney. In a survey conducted in 2015, a radiation level of 2 sieverts per hour was detected there.

TEPCO will use a large crane that will hold special equipment to cut the chimney in round slices from the top.

The company set up a remote control room in a large remodeled bus about 200 meters from the chimney. Workers will operate the special cutting equipment while watching footage from 160 video cameras.

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s ghost towns

Nuclear wasteland Inside the ghost towns of Fukushima,  Eight years on from the tsunami and nuclear meltdown, much of Japan’s Fukushima province remains derelict and deserted. Telegraph, 13 May 19 

There was a chilling silence in the town of Tomioka in the days after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Shoes were left in porches, half-read newspapers lay abandoned next to cups of tea, long gone cold. As night closed in on the seaside town, lights glared out from a few bare windows, while news of the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant just six miles away drifted from a solitary radio.

Nobody was home.

Eight years on, little has changed. Before March 11, 2011 – the day the tsunami engulfed the nuclear facility, forcing the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents across the region – the town had a population of 15,960. Now, just a few hundred people have returned despite the lifting of the evacuation order in April 2017.

“Officially 835 have returned, but many are plant and other clean-up workers who are renting out abandoned houses,” says Takumi Takano, a local councillor who splits her time between Tomioka and temporary digs in Koriyama an hour’s drive away that she and her husband Kenichi have lived in since evacuating.

Of the remaining locals most are either elderly, or only return during the day, she says. Most worryingly, just 14 are children. When night falls, they return to “temporary” homes elsewhere, she says. “It’s like a ghost town.”

A similar situation is found throughout the entire evacuated region, where only 12,859 of the 100,510 residents who were living in the zone before the disasters have returned, a Cabinet Office official says. Like Tomioka, many of them are clean-up workers, local residents say.

…… After almost eight years, residents, especially those with young families, have settled elsewhere, securing new jobs and starting new schools or moving out of Fukushima entirely,  says  says Kenichi, a former worker at the devastated nuclear plant.. Many are put off returning by the severe shortage of medical facilities in the region.

Then there’s the radioactivity,” he says, as the couple sit outside their caravan, set up on the land of their recently demolished home, which backs on to a 130-square-mile “difficult-to-return-zone” that is still considered too highly contaminated to inhabit.

Eight years on, radioactivity levels have fallen in the reopened parts of Tomioka, though remain 20 times higher than before the disaster. “It’s much higher over there,” he says, pointing to the blockaded zone, where radiation levels exceed 3.8 microsieverts per hour – the designated threshold for issuing evacuation orders.

That zone is a legacy of the nuclear disaster, when multiple reactor meltdowns and explosions, triggered by a magnitude nine earthquake and towering tsunami, spread radioactive materials for hundreds of miles around……..

despite clean-up operations there to reduce radiation levels below the government-set target of 0.23 microsieverts (µSv) per hour, other legacies of the disaster – the crumbling houses and shops, corroding vehicles and overgrown fields, not to mention 16.5 million containers of contaminated earth collected at some 140,000 sites around the region – are impossible to avoid.

The 0.23 µSv figure is significant in that it adds up to an annual dosage level of one millisievert (mSv) (calculated on the premise that a resident spends eight hours a day outdoors), stipulated by the International Atomic Energy Agency as being safe for members of the public.

But while maintaining that level is complicated by recontamination from surrounding woodland, some experts argue the figure says little about the true dangers, or safety, of radiation exposure. That the Japanese government raised this to 20 mSv in the aftermath of the disasters adds weight to their argument…….

Misao Fujita, a doctor who performs thyroid scans at a clinic in Iwaki, about 30 miles south of the nuclear plant, says a connection between the cancers and radiation exposure cannot be ruled out and the screening effect is no reason to disregard the examinations.

“What we do know is that after Chernobyl, many children developed thyroid cancer, and if you take that into account and consider the high risk that Fukushima children were exposed to radiation then I think we should carry out such tests,” Dr Fujita says, adding that thyroid cancer normally occurs in one in one million children.

Noriko Tanaka, whose son is one of Dr Fujita’s patients, says exams revealing cysts in her son’s thyroid are a concern, not least because iodine-131 – a substance that causes thyroid cancer – was contained in the plume released by the Fukushima plant that landed on Iwaki after the disasters. At the time, she was pregnant with her son. “I worry because nobody knows for sure what the future holds,” she says……….

The issue of the one million tons of contaminated water being stored at the stricken nuclear plant is another worry for residents. After receiving assurances from Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO ) that the water had been successfully treated and stripped of all but one radioactive material, tritium, the government announced in 2017 it would start releasing the water into the ocean, despite protests, especially from local fisheries.

TEPCO released convoluted data to demonstrate the water’s safety, but was forced to backtrack last September when further tests showed the sums didn’t add up and 80 per cent of the water was in fact up to 20,000 times higher than the official safe threshold. Furthermore, it contained harmful radionuclides such as iodine, caesium and strontium.

Moreover, while the initial suggestion was that tritium was relatively harmless some studies have shown it to be a cause of infant leukaemia, says Ayumi Iida of NPO Tarachine, which independently analyses seawater samples taken from the ocean near Fukushima’s two nuclear plants.

“Tritiated water is easily absorbed and hazardous when inhaled or ingested via food or water,” she says. “There’s already data indicating infant leukaemia rates are higher near to nuclear plants, and tritium is known to cause DNA damage, so while there are claims that tritium is harmless, there are counterclaims it can adversely affect health, especially among young children.”…….

Shaun Burnie, a nuclear expert with Greenpeace says that discharging the water into the ocean is “the worst option” available, and one whose main consideration is economic.

“The only viable option, and it’s not without risks, is the long-term storage of the water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology,” he says. ……….

“The reality is there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision-making by both TEPCO and the government,” says Mr Burnie.

Among more pressing issues, Mr Burnie says, is 400,000 cubic meters of sludge being stored within the Fukushima plant grounds that contains high concentrations of strontium – known as a “bone-seeker” because, if introduced into the body, it can accumulate in the bones in the same way as calcium does.

With the plant still generating waste, this sludge is expected to nearly double over the next 10 years, he adds.

Strontium releases into the environment from the plant were relatively small following the 2011 disaster, but significantly greater 30 months later, when in 2013 a large strontium-laced plume contaminated land as far away as Minamisoma – a city about 20 km from the plant, Mr Burnie says. Such an event could re-occur, he says.

“Is it a good idea to lift the evacuation orders? Absolutely not. The public are right to be concerned about the possibility of further offsite releases.”

They can also be forgiven for being sceptical over official reassurances that foodstuffs are safe, says Ms Iida of Tarachine, which also runs a produce-testing laboratory and has found “plenty” of items with levels of contamination exceeding the safe limits.

Meanwhile tests on samples of soil – which has no official safe threshold in Japan – have also revealed high levels of radiation in the area, she adds.

Namie’s Obori district, about six miles northwest of the nuclear plant and within the difficult-to-return-zone, is one place where soil radiation levels remain high. In woodland backing the pretty hamlet, which is famed for its pottery but has slowly surrendered to nature, the Telegraph recorded up to 127 µSv per hour – over 350 times the IAEA’s safe threshold……

May 14, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear waste mess is by no means solved

THE OLYMPICS CLEAN-UP: FUKUSHIMA, OKINAWA, HOMELESSNESS    陳黃金菊05/05/2019    ENGLISH INTERNATIONAL MAY 2019      NUCLEAR PHYSICIST Hiroaki Koide has pointed out that although eight years have passed, there is still more than one million tons of irradiated water which still hasn’t been treated. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)’s “handling” method for this situation was to build a thousand sewage tanks to store the sewage. But as space was limited and the number of sewage tanks was also limited. As such, Koide asserts, “TEPCO will be compelled to release these waters into the sea in the near future.” [1] Moreover, with regards to the core meltdown of the reactor, the melted fuel rods remain unaccounted for.

Koide points out that if there were issues with a fired power plant, there would not be such issues. But if this is nuclear power, “Anyone approaching the site would die.” Despite that the Japanese government has attempted to handle the matter with robots, once the microchips inside are exposed to radiation, they will be overwritten. Likewise, exposure to high levels of radiation is deadly for workers.

As such, Koide has been staunch in advocating that the only solution to the Fukushima incident is a Chernobyl-style sarcophagus, covering the nuclear power plant. But he also admits, even in this case, “the containment of this disaster will not have been achieved even after all who are alive today have died.” [2]

Abe Shinzo issued an order for an end to an evacuation on April 1st, 2017, at the same time as he issued a compulsory repatriation policy. At this time, the town of Namie, 11.2 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, has been described as a “ghost town.” As raised by now deceased mayor Baba Yushi before he died, after the end of the evacuation, 234 people—one percent of the population—returned to Namie to live. The majority of these were elderly, which is to say, the town lacked a working population. Without any means of transportation and open supermarkets. There was just one clinic. [3] 

As a compensatory measure in line with the repatriation measure, TEPCO set a deadline, requesting that disaster victims assess their losses, and inform TEPCO of what kind of compensation they requested. Regarding this, the mayor of Namie stated that TEPCO never should have set this kind of deadline, but should account for the losses of disaster victims themselves.

What is even more incredible is that TEPCO could use “individual circumstances” as a way of avoiding the requests of disaster victims. For example, residents in twenty kilometers of the nuclear power plant were forcibly evacuated but TEPCO interpreted this instead as “voluntary evacuation”, and refused to pay compensation. [4] Even those who lost their real estate might not receive compensation, not to mention harms that could not be compensated for, such as those below the age of eighteen whose thyroids were inspected five years later, among them 172 were positive for or suspected of having thyroid cancer, and 131 had their thyroid glands removed by operation. [5] 

At the same time, damages to the environment cannot be compensated. Who is it that would receive compensation? What kind of compensation would that be? Before the disaster, Fukushima’s agricultural industry and natural environment were comparatively famous. But after the disaster, farmers have been forced to the end of a rope, some of which have chosen death. [6] Completely clearing radiation from the land is also impossible, because in clearing remaining radiation in the forest, this would require cutting down all of the trees, and removing all of the topsoils. [7]

Protests by those who have developed thyroid cancer were criticized by the government, stating that their protests were causing “reputational damage”.[8] The government and TEPCO toss the ball to each other, and what is even stranger is that nobody seems to need to take responsibility. [9]…………..https://newbloommag.net/2019/05/05/olympics-fukushima-okinawa-eng/

1] See “The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics”.

[2] Ibid.

[3] See “‘Save the Town’: Insolvable Dilemmas of Fukushima’s ‘Return Policy’”.

[4] Ibid.

[5] See “Follow Up on Thyroid Cancer! Patient Group Voices Opposition to Scaling Down the Fukushima Prefectural Health Survey”.

[6] See the Green Citizen Action Alliance’s report “Environmental Front: Subscribing to 311 compensation” (〈環境前線:前仆後繼的311核災求償行動〉).

[7] See “Reconstruction Disaster: The human implications of Japan’s forced return policy in Fukushima”

[8] Ibid.

[9] See Tetsuya Takahashi’s book, Xisheng te tixi: Fudao ‧ Okinawa (2014, lit. The System of Sacrifice: Fukushima‧Okinawa), trans. Lee Yi-zhen.

[10] One can see the report “Decoding the US Military Bases in Japan with 9 Graphs” (九張圖解密日本美軍基地) in the News Lens and “Okinawa Government Sued by Japanese Government for ‘the Most Dangerous Military Bases’” (為了「全世界最危險的軍事基地」,沖繩縣政府被日本政府一狀告上法庭──觀光客看不到的美軍基地問題) in Crossing.

[11] One can see the report in UDN Global, “Okinawan Referendum: Say No to the US Military Again? The People Neglected by the Japanese Government” (沖繩基地公投:再次向美軍說NO?日美政府無視的43萬民意).

[12] See the editorial, “Henoko project clearly doomed; time to open talks with U.S” in Asahi and “US Military Base Threatens Biodiversity in Okinawa” in Truthout

May 6, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | 3 Comments

Safety and language problems, as Tepco plans to bring in foreign workers for Fukushima clean-up

April 25, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Hazardous removal of spent fuel rods is just one step in the Fukushima nuclear clean-up

April 20, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan has a new kind of visa to lure foreign blue collar workers for Fukushima clean-up

Japan Aims to Hire Foreigners for Nuclear Cleanup

The country’s largest utility is working to decommission the Fukushima plant amid radiation risks at the site of the 2011 disaster, WSJ , By Mayumi Negishi and Chieko Tsuneoka, April 18, 2019 TOKYO—Japan’s largest utility is looking to foreign blue-collar workers to help decommission its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant amid a labor shortage exacerbated by radiation risks at the site of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., or Tepco, said Thursday it has informed dozens of contractors that foreigners could qualify for a new type of visa that allows manual workers to stay in the country for five years. Workers who enter areas with elevated radiation would need sufficient Japanese-language skills...(subscribers only) https://www.wsj.com/articles/japan-aims-to-hire-foreigners-for-nuclear-clean-up-11555595613

April 20, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan’s massive task to clean up nuclear fuel pools of Fukushima stricken reactors

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Okuma residents reluctant to return : much of the area still highly radioactive

Fukushima Japan nuclear fallout: Okuma residents encouraged home  https://www.dw.com/en/fukushima-japan-nuclear-fallout-okuma-residents-encouraged-home/a-48272491 12 Apr19

Eight years after a triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, part of nearby Okuma has been declared safe for residents to return. But there has been no rush to go home as radiation levels remain high. The evacuation order for parts of Okuma was lifted by the Japanese government on Wednesday.

But just 367 of the town’s pre-2011 population of 10,341 have registered to go home, according to local media reports in Japan.

Okuma sits alongside the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and 40% of the town has been declared safe for a permanent return. But a survey last year found only 12.5% of former residents wanted to do so.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is to attend a ceremony in Okuma on Sunday to mark the occasion. But the government has been accused of promoting the return of residents to showcase safety ahead of the Tokyo Olympics next summer.

“This is a major milestone for the town,” Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said in a written statement. “But this is not the goal, but a start toward the lifting of the evacuation order for the entire town.”

Lingering radiation

There are plans to open a new town hall in May to encourage more people to go back to their town which was devastated by the earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdown at the plant in March 2011. But the town center near the main train station remains closed due to high radiation levels which exceed the annual exposure limit. There will be no functioning hospital for another two years.

Much of Okuma still records high radiation levels and is off-limits. All of nearby Futaba remains closed, with the former 40,000 residents unable to return home. In a report from an investigation published last month, environmental campaign group Greenpeace said “radiation levels remain too high for the safe return of thousands of Japanese citizen evacuees.”

Reluctance to return

The government lifted the evacuation order for much of neighboring Tomioka two years ago. But only 10% of Tomioka’s population has so far returned. Some 339 square kilometers (131 square miles) of the area around the plant are designated unsafe.

Fears of exposure to radiation remain high among former residents, especially those with children. In its report, Greenpeace accused the government of failure: “In the case of workers and children, who are in the frontline of hazards resulting from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government continues to ignore international radioprotection recommendations.”

Part of the Okuma is being used to store millions of cubic meters of toxic soil collected during the decontanimation operation. Authorities say it will be removed by 2045 but no alternative storage site has yet been found.

In all, 160,000 people were evacuated out of the area when three of Fukushima’s six reactors went into meltdown, leading to radiation leaks.

April 13, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Impossible at present to remove all fuel debris from stricken Fukushima nuclear reactors

Unclear debris map casts shadow over decommissioning of Fukushima plant   https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190409/p2a/00m/0na/021000c   April 9, 2019 (Mainichi Japan) TOKYO — The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are set to launch full-scale probes of the inside of the No. 1 through No. 3 reactors at the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station this fiscal year, in an attempt to determine which reactor to work on first to remove fuel debris — a critical step for decommissioning the facility.

April 11, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japanese government partially lifts evacuation order in one Fukushima nuclear plant hometown

April 11, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Nuclear challenge: How Japan has boosted food exports from disaster hit Fukushima – exclusive government interview

08-Apr-2019 By Tingmin Koe, Japanese authorities have been engaging both tourists and foreign governments in a double-pronged strategy to promote food products produced in areas that were hardest hit by the nuclear disaster in 2011, according to a senior government official.

HTTPS://WWW.FOODNAVIGATOR-ASIA.COM/ARTICLE/2019/04/08/NUCLEAR-CHALLENGE-HOW-JAPAN-HAS-BOOSTED-FOOD-EXPORTS-FROM-DISASTER-HIT-FUKUSHIMA-EXCLUSIVE-GOVERNMENT-INTERVIEW 

April 9, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Few evacuees are likely to return next week to parts of Okuma, host of Fukushima nuclear plant

Evacuees can return next week to parts of Okuma, host of Fukushima nuclear plant, but few likely to. Japan Times, 5 Apr 19, KYODO The government formalized on Friday its decision to partially lift from next Wednesday a mandatory evacuation order for residents of a town that jointly hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The town of Okuma — which saw all of its roughly 10,000 residents evacuate after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, triggered by a deadly earthquake and tsunami — will allow former residents to return for the first time in eight years, the government decided. The decision was said to be based on the lower radiation levels achieved through decontamination work.

Futaba, the other town that hosts the plant, remains a no-go zone.

Despite the decision, a very small number of residents are expected to return to Okuma. As of late March, only 367 people from 138 households, or around 3.5 percent of the original population of 10,341, were registered as residents of areas where the order will be lifted. …..

There will be no restrictions in place over approximately 38 percent of the town’s total area, but the rest will remain off-limits due to higher radiation levels……https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/04/05/national/evacuees-can-return-next-week-parts-okuma-host-fukushima-nuclear-plant-likely/#.XKfUetIzbGg

April 6, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster estimated at up to 81 trillion yen

An aerial view shows workers wearing protective suits and masks working atop contaminated water storage tanks at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, in this photo taken by Kyodo August 20, 2013. Japan’s nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday it is concerned that more storage tanks at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant will spring leaks, following the discovery that highly contaminated water is leaking from one of the hastily built containers. Picture taken August 20, 2013. Mandatory Credit. REUTERS/Kyodo (JAPAN – Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT POLITICS ENERGY)
ATTENTION EDITORS – THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY. FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. THIS PICTURE IS DISTRIBUTED EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS. MANDATORY CREDIT. JAPAN OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN JAPAN. YES

Think tank puts cost to address nuke disaster up to 81 trillion yen  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201903100044.html By ATSUSHI KOMORI/ Staff Writer, March 10, 2019  In a startling disparity, a private think tank puts the cost of addressing the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster between 35 trillion yen and 81 trillion yen ($315 billion and $728 billion), compared with the government estimate of 22 trillion yen.

The calculation, by the Tokyo-based Japan Center for Economic Research, showed that the total could soar to at least 60 percent more and up to 3.7 times more than the 2016 estimate by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

In releasing the latest estimates on March 7, the center said it is time for serious debate over the role nuclear energy should play in the nation’s mid- and long-term energy policy.

Of the highest price tag of 81 trillion yen, 51 trillion yen would go toward decommissioning the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and treating and disposing of radioactive water. The ministry put the cost for these tasks at 8 trillion yen.

The center calculated the compensation to victims at 10 trillion yen, while the comparable estimate by the ministry was 8 trillion yen.

Although the center’s estimate for the decontamination operation was 20 trillion yen, the ministry’s projection was 6 trillion yen.

The biggest disparity in the estimates between the think tank and the ministry is that the former put the treatment and disposal of contaminated water at 40 trillion yen and included the cost for disposing of polluted soil produced during cleanup operations in the overall costs.

If contaminated water is released in the sea after it is diluted with water, the overall costs could be 41 trillion yen, including 11 trillion yen estimated for decommissioning and disposal for tainted water.

The least expensive way of coping with the accident–35 trillion yen–would be to encase the plant in a concrete sarcophagus, rather than undertaking the formidable challenge of retrieving melted nuclear fuel from the reactors, and releasing contaminated water into the sea. In this case, it would cost 4.3 trillion yen to close down the plant and dispose of the radioactive water.

But this scenario drew fire from residents in the affected municipalities as they view covering nuclear fuel debris with a massive structure would be tantamount to asking them to give up hope of eventually returning to their hometowns.

The center’s latest projections followed its estimates two years ago, in which the number varied from 50 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen.

It updated its projections based on the findings about treatment and disposal of radioactive water and progress in cleanup operations over the past years.

March 23, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | 1 Comment

Fukushima radioactive water – a million tons, and still coming

Fukushima water headache: 1 million tons and counting http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201903190042.html THE ASAHI SHIMBUN,March 19, 2019The crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reached an undesired milestone on March 18: Storage tanks at the site now contain more than 1 million tons of radiation-contaminated water.The announcement by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., came as the utility and the central government continue to weigh water-disposal methods while hearing the concerns of fishermen who fear for their livelihoods.

Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, has repeatedly said a decision must be made soon on how to deal with the contaminated water.

“We are entering a period in which further delays in deciding what measure to implement will no longer be tolerable,” Fuketa recently said.

Groundwater becomes contaminated when it flows into the buildings of the three reactors that suffered meltdowns in 2011 following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. Water that is used to cool the nuclear fuel debris is processed to remove radioactive substances, but the system cannot get rid of tritium.

These problems have forced TEPCO to store the contaminated water in hundreds of tanks installed at the Fukushima plant.

If more storage tanks are constructed, the overall capacity of 1.37 million tons at the site will likely be reached by the end of 2020.

Fukushima fishermen are already on alert for the one option they have already criticized–diluting the water and dumping it into the Pacific Ocean.

The economy ministry in 2016 said that measure could be implemented in the shortest time frame and at a low cost.

Fuketa has also said this is the most realistic option, but he noted that it would require years of preparation.

ome experts said the go-ahead for the dilution measure should have been given at the end of 2018 to start the process before the storage tanks reach capacity.

Economy ministry officials tried to explain various measures being considered at a public hearing in Fukushima in August 2018, including releasing the diluted water into the ocean.

“It will have a devastating effect on fishing in Fukushima,” said Tetsu Nozaki, who heads the Fukushima prefectural federation of fisheries cooperative associations.

Fukushima fishermen have slowly resumed operations since all forms of fishing were prohibited after high levels of radiation were found in fish caught off the Fukushima coast.

Fish auctions restarted at Fukushima ports in spring 2017, but the volume of fish brought in is still only about 20 percent of levels before the 2011 nuclear accident.

The last thing Fukushima fishermen want is an increase of negative publicity about their catches if the diluted water is dumped into the Pacific.

The government has spent about 34.5 billion yen ($309 million) to build a frozen underground earth wall around the three reactor buildings to divert the groundwater to the ocean. The “ice wall” has cut down the flow of groundwater, which at one time reached about 500 tons a day.

But still, groundwater continues to flow into the three reactor buildings at a rate of about 100 tons daily.

(This article was compiled from reports by Chikako Kawahara, Hiroshi Ishizuka, Toshio Kawada and Kazumasa Sugimura.)

March 21, 2019 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment