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Robot to use brush to retrieve melted fuel at Fukushima plant

Robot to use brush to retrieve melted fuel at Fukushima plant, Asahi Shimbun, By KEITARO FUKUCHI/ Staff Writer, July 27, 2020     FUKUSHIMA--A robotic arm under development in Britain will use a brush and vacuum vessel on its end to collect melted fuel in a step toward retrieving debris at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Details of the device, which will start collecting debris inside the No. 2 reactor on a trial basis next year, were announced on July 2.

The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. plan to retrieve melted fuel at the No. 2 reactor ahead of two other reactors because radiation levels are relatively low……..

Training is expected to reduce the time required for workers to put debris into the transfer vessel near the fuel.

Other measures to lessen workers’ doses will be taken, such as introducing panels to block radiation.  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13529394

July 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Plutonium particles from Fukushima a bigger problem than previously thought

Plutonium Particles Scattered 200km From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Site, Scientists Say   https://theswaddle.com/plutonium-particles-scattered-200km-from-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-site-scientists-say/, By Aditi Murti, Jul 22, 2020  Plutonium fragments may have spread more than 200km via caesium microparticle compounds released during the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in Japan. These findings are according to research done on the region’s soil samples, published in Science of The Total Environment, by an international group of scientists.
The Fukushima Nuclear disaster occurred when a massive tsunami crashed over the plant’s walls, causing three operating nuclear reactors to overheat and melt down. Simultaneously, reactions within the plant generated hydrogen gas that exploded as soon as it escaped from containment. During the disaster, caesium — a volatile fission product created in nuclear fuel — combined with other reactor materials to create caesium-rich microparticles (CsMPs) that were ejected from the plant.
CsMPs are incredibly radioactive, and scientists study them in an attempt to both measure their environmental impact and to gain insight into the nature and extent of the Fukushima disaster. In one such research process, scientists discovered tiny uranium and plutonium fragments within these micro-particles. The range of plutonium particle spread was previously estimated at 50km, and this research changes that number to 230km. This discovery is vital as it provides a reason to extend testing for plutonium poisoning in human-inhabited regions further than before, and helps scientists understand how to decommission the nuclear reactors in the plant.   Decommissioning nuclear plants is extremely important after they cease to function, in order to reduce residual radioactivity in the region to safe levels.
With respect to immediate implications for health, scientists note that radioactivity levels of the plutonium are similar to global counts from nuclear weapons tests. While this means that radioactivity levels may not pose an urgent, critical danger, scientists also note that plutonium poisoning in food items remains a threat. If plutonium were ingested — a possibility in this region — it could create isotopes that significantly increase radioactivity doses, and poison the body
Due to high radioactivity levels, humans are still unable to enter the Fukushima plant nine years after the disaster. Yet, scientists continue to work towards safely decommissioning the reactors within the plant from the outskirts.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, radiation | Leave a comment

The Fukushima Diiachi Accident Chain, Part 6

The Fukushima Diiachi Accident Chain, Part 6, Nuclear Exhaust, 22 July 20

A Discussion of Official Reports Describing the Fukushma Diiachi  Nuclear Disaster

 The references used for this discussion are:

The Official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Executive Summary”, The National Diet of Japan, 2012.

“FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI: ANS Committee Report”, A Report by The American Nuclear Society Special Committee on Fukushima, March 2012.

“The Fukushima Daiichi Accident, Technical Volume 1/5 Description and Context of the Accident, IAEA, Vienna, 2015.

 FACT AND CAUSE OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ACCIDENT”, Hideki NARIAI, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Engineering Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, March 1-4, 2012, Tokyo, Japan.

Other sources, such as press reports, industry and authority regulations and technical bulletins will also be used.

The very great complexity of the disaster and of the human and systems responses to the challenges which confronted, and confront, the Fukushima Diiachi nuclear plant and the people operating and tending to the plant is obvious. The aim of this discussion is to attempt to produce, in review, a coherent picture of the events as reported by the authorities given above.

While the nuclear industry and permanent nuclear authorities – the IAEA – tend to agree closely in their reports of the events, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, appointed by the Japanese national Parliament (Diet) reports various aspects of the disaster with pointedly local questioning of events based upon witness accounts and the Committee’s own findings. And these perceptions, based on local knowledge of both the plant and witness statements actually challenge, in aspects, the findings of the other authorities.

As a preamble to the discussion of the disaster, a central consideration to all nuclear power plants in use today has to be included.   The long term, intermediate term and short term safety of nuclear power plants depends upon the availability of electrical grid connection and power to the reactors and the entire plant. This is not an opinion, it is a technical fact which nuclear authorities have repeatedly reported upon.

The surprising fact is, that although nuclear reactors can supply electrical power to the world’s largest cities and nations, when the grid goes down, there is no ability for any nuclear reactor to power itself and its systems on any long term basis. There is nothing integral to the reactors which allows the energy resident in the reactors’ cores and pressure vessels to be controlled and managed so as to manage the cooling of the reactors.

While the nuclear industry and nuclear authorities have touted the virtues of nuclear power plant emergency cooling systems for over 50 years.   However:

 “The emergency cooling systems started. However, they did not work for so long time, and the fuels became to heat up and melt down, resulting the severe accident. “ Source: English translation of “FACT AND CAUSE OF FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS ACCIDENT , Hideki NARIAI, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Engineering Lessons Learned from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, March 1-4, 2012, Tokyo, Japan.

As we shall see later, the workers at the Fukushima Diiachi site during the early stages kept the emergency cooling systems going for many hours longer than the systems were designed to last. And these systems are designed to work for 8 hours only. (See the ANS report)..………. 

It is beyond me why the nuclear industry, for more then 50 years, has been so wilfully dumb, ignorant and arrogant in the design of its emergency systems. And everything else.  It seems to me the main aim of the industry is to sell reactors by any means.  Whereas the industry should have the main aim of assuring safety in the context of the modern world and the modern world energy market.   The problem is, though solar panels mounted on the Fukushima Shima Diiachi reactor building roofs could have save the day by keeping cooling pumps going, the obvious thought is this: why not just replace the Fukushima Diiachi with a solar and wind farm?  

No danger of meltdown at all.  As soon the 2009 scientific assessment came in demonstrating that an earthquake and tsunami was due “within the next 30 years”. that is precisely what should have been down.  Perhaps Barry Brook and Pam Sykes, two academic non nuclear experts in Australia, were right. No human skill could have saved Fukushima Diiachi. So why leave it there? Pity the authorities in the nuclear industry hid and suppressed the scientific warnings of 2009, including TEPCOs own confirmation of the growing threat.  This is standard procedure for the nuclear industry. It is not a particularly Japanese culture.  It is nuclear norm.

The IAEA requirements for electricity grids which supply Nuclear Power Plants.

The following text is a straight quote from : ” “ELECTRIC GRID RELIABILITY AND INTERFACE WITH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS” IAEA NUCLEAR ENERGY SERIES No. NG-T-3.8, IAEA, ….

Quote: ““The safe and economic operation of a nuclear power plant (NPP) requires the plant to be connected to an electrical grid system that has adequate capacity for exporting the power from the NPP, and for providing a reliable electrical supply to the NPP for safe startup, operation and normal or emergency shutdown of the plant.

“Connection of any large new power plant to the electrical grid system in a country may require significant modification and strengthening of the grid system, but for NPPs there may be added requirements to the structure of the grid system and the way it is controlled and maintained to ensure adequate reliability.

“The organization responsible for the NPP and the organization responsible for the grid system will need to establish and agree the necessary characteristics of the grid and of the NPP, well before the NPP is built, so that they are compatible with each other. They will also need to agree the necessary modifications to the grid system, and how they are to be financed.

“For a Member State that does not yet use nuclear power, the introduction and development of nuclear power is a major undertaking. It requires the country to build physical infrastructure and develop human resources so it can
construct and operate a nuclear power plant (NPP) in a safe, secure and technically sound manner. ” end quote. Source: “ELECTRIC GRID RELIABILITY AND INTERFACE WITH NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS” IAEA NUCLEAR ENERGY SERIES No. NG-T-3.8, IAEA,

Hmm. very interesting. NPPs require a specifically designed and modified baseload capable grid network before they can be expected to safely start up, operation and shut down. Further the grid is needed, according to the world nuclear authority, for SAFE EMERGENCY SHUTDOWN.

The Earthquake and the Grid in Japan on the day of the disaster

One would have thought the following information would have been clearly discussed by the nuclear authorities from the day of the disaster. It’s nearly 10 years and still no word from them:

““Vibrations from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake triggered an immediate shut down of 15 of Japan’s nuclear power stations. Seismic sensors picked up the earthquake and control rods were automatically inserted into the reactors, halting the fission reaction that is used to produce electricity. This sudden loss of power across Japan’s national power grid caused widespread power failures, cutting vital electricity supplies to Fukushima Daiichi. There were three reactors, one, two and three, operating at the time when the earthquake hit while reactors four, five and six had already been shutdown as part of routine maintenance work.” “Japan earthquake: how the nuclear crisis unfolded”. Richard Gray, Science Correspondent, The Telegraph, 20 March 2011. end quote.

The first thing the earthquake did was to cause the shutdown of nuclear power feed into the grid. 15 Nuclear Power Plants threw in the towel because they cannot safely operate during an earthquake. Apparently. Nuclear power guarantees black out in an earthquake.

July 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference, safety | Leave a comment

Fukushima may have scattered plutonium widely

Fukushima may have scattered plutonium widely, Physics World 20 Jul 2020   Tiny fragments of plutonium may have been carried more than 200 km by caesium particles released following the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011. So says an international group of scientists that has made detailed studies of soil samples at sites close to the damaged reactors. The researchers say the findings shed new light on conditions inside the sealed-off reactors and should aid the plant’s decommissioning……..

Mapping plutonium spread

To date, plutonium from the accident has been detected as far as 50 km from the damaged reactors. Researchers had previously thought that this plutonium, like the caesium, was released after evaporating from the fuel. But the new analysis instead points to some of it having escaped from the stricken plant in particulate form within fragments of fuel “captured” by the CsMPs…….

Implications for decommissioning

The researchers note that previous studies have shown that plutonium and caesium are distributed differently in the extended area around Fukushima, which suggests that not all CsMPs contain plutonium. However, they say that the fact plutonium is found in some of these particles implies that it could have been transported as far afield as the caesium – up to 230 km from the Fukushima plant.

As regards any threat to health, they note that radioactivity levels of the emitted plutonium are comparable with global counts from nuclear weapons tests. Such low concentrations, they say, “may not have significant health effects”, but they add that if the plutonium were ingested, the isotopes that make it up could yield quite high effective doses.

With radiation levels still too high for humans to enter the damaged reactors, the researchers argue that the fuel fragments they have uncovered provide precious direct information on what happened during the meltdown and the current state of the fuel debris. In particular, Utsunomiya points out that the composition of the debris, just like that of normal nuclear fuel, varies on the very smallest scales. This information, he says, will be vital when it comes to decommissioning the reactors safely, given the potential risk of inhaling dust particles containing uranium or plutonium.

The research is reported in Science of the Total Environment.   https://physicsworld.com/a/fukushima-may-have-scattered-plutonium-widely/

July 21, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, Fukushima continuing, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

Japanese municipal assemblies oppose dumping radioactive water in sea

Storage tanks for radioactive water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan February 18, 2019. Picture taken February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Issei Kato

Fukushima localities speak out against dumping radioactive water in sea,  Japan Times,  17 Jul 20, Seventeen out of 59 municipal assemblies in Fukushima Prefecture have either passed a resolution or issued a statement opposing the discharge into the Pacific Ocean of treated radioactive water currently stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, a Fukushima Minpo survey has shown.The resolutions and statements also described measures taken by the central government as inadequate to combat reputational damage to food and fishery goods produced in Fukushima Prefecture, and the hope that local voices will be reflected in Tokyo’s decision on whether to release the tritium-tainted water into the sea.

Fukushima Minpo conducted a survey of assemblies in the prefecture’s 59 cities, towns and villages from June 18 to June 24. The assembly for the town of Namie, close to where the nuclear power plant is located, adopted a resolution that opposed the release of the radioactive water into the sea, while assemblies from the town of Miharu and village of Nishigo both issued statements opposing both sea discharge and evaporation as methods for disposing of the water.

Many municipal assemblies have urged the central government to instead come up with measures involving long-term storage of the contaminated water in tanks ……….https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/07/17/national/fukushima-assemblies-radioactive-water/

July 18, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Rally opposes proposal for Fukushima wastewater 

 

July 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, opposition to nuclear | Leave a comment

Testing for radiation in Fukushima – the continued anxiety

Nine years on, Fukushima’s mental health fallout lingers

As radiation from the Fukushima nuclear accident subsides, a damaging social and psychological legacy continues, Wired


By SOPHIE KNIGHT 24 June 20,  If it were not illegal, Ayumi Iida would love to test a dead body. Recently, she tested a wild boar’s heart. She’s also tested the contents of her vacuum cleaner and the filter of her car’s air conditioner. Her children are so used to her scanning the material contents of their life that when she cuts the grass, her son asks, “Are you going to test that too?”

Iida, who is 35, forbids her children from entering the sea or into forests. She agonises over which foods to buy. But no matter what she does, she can’t completely protect her children from radiation. It even lurks in their urine.

“Maybe he’s being exposed through the school lunch,” she says, puzzling over why her nine-year-old son’s urine showed two-and-a-half times the concentration of caesium that hers did, when she takes such care shopping. “Or maybe it’s from the soil outside where he plays. Or is it because children have a faster metabolism, so he flushes more out? We don’t know.”

Iida is a public relations officer at Tarachine, a citizens’ lab in Fukushima, Japan, that tests for radioactive contamination released from the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Agricultural produce grown in the area is subject to government and supermarket testing, but Tarachine wants to provide people with an option to test anything, from foraged mushrooms to dust from their home. Iida tests anything unknown before feeding it to her four children. Recently, she threw out some rice she received as a present after finding its level of contamination – although 80 times lower than the government limit – unacceptably high. “My husband considered eating it ourselves, but it’s too much to cook two batches of rice for every meal. In the end we fed it to some seagulls.”

Tarachine is one of several citizen labs founded in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, which obliterated a swathe of the country’s northwest coast and killed more than 18,000 people. The wave knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, triggering a meltdown in three of the reactor cores and hydrogen explosions that sprayed radionuclides across the Fukushima prefecture. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuate. A government decontamination programme has allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in many municipalities, but one zone is still off limits, with only short visits permitted.

Driven by a desire to find out precisely how much radiation there was in the environment and where, a group of volunteers launched Tarachine in Iwaki, a coastal city that escaped the worst of the radioactive plume and was not evacuated, through a crowdfunding campaign in November 2011. It is now registered as a non-profit organisation, and runs on donations.

In a windowless room controlled for temperature and humidity and dotted with screens showing graphs, two women sort and label samples, either collected by staff or sent in by the public: soil from back gardens, candied grasshoppers, seawater. In the beginning, mothers sent in litres of breastmilk. Tarachine initially charged a tenth of what a university lab would charge to make the testing accessible to as many people as possible; last year, they made it free.

To test for caesium-137, the main long-term contaminant released from the plant, staff finely chop samples and put them inside a gamma counter, a cylindrical grey machine that looks like a centrifuge. Tarachine’s machines are more accurate than the more commonly accessible measuring tools: at some public monitoring posts, shoppers can simply place their produce on top of a device to get a reading, but this can be heavily skewed by background radiation (waving a Geiger counter over food won’t give an accurate reading for the same reason). Tarachine tries to get as precise readings as possible; the lab’s machines give results to one decimal place, and they try to block out excess background radiation by placing bottles of water around the machines.

Measuring for strontium, a type of less penetrative beta radiation, is even more complicated: the food has to first be roasted to ash before being mixed with an acid and sifted. The whole process takes two to three days. Tarachine received training and advice from university radiation labs around the country, but the volunteers had to experiment with everyday food items that scientists had never tested. “There was no recipe like ‘Roast the leaf for two hours at so-and-so Celsius’, you know?” says Iida. “If it’s too burnt it’s no good. We also had to experiment with types of acid and how much of the acid to add.”

Japanese government standards for radiation are some of the most stringent in the world: the upper limit of radioactive caesium in food such as meat and vegetables is 100 becquerels per kilogram, compared with 1,250 in the European Union and 1,200 in the US (the becquerel unit measures how much ionizing radiation is released due to radioactive decay). Many supermarkets adhere to a tighter limit, proudly advertising that their produce contains less than 40 becquerels, or as few as 10. Tarachine aims for just 1 becquerel.

“How I think about it is, how much radiation was there in local rice before the accident? It was about 0.01 becquerel. So that’s what I want the standard to be,” says Iida. Continue reading

June 25, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, radiation, social effects | Leave a comment

Half of highly radioactive exhaust stack dismantled at Fukushima Nuclear Reactor 1

Asahi Shimbun 30th April 2020, Work to dismantle the upper half of an exhaust stack at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant finished on April 29, the first time a
structure highly contaminated by radiation was dismantled at the plant. The
chimney, which is 120 meters tall and about 3 meters in diameter, was used
for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors of the plant, operated by Tokyo Electric
Power Co. On the morning of April 29, workers spent an hour to lower sliced
parts of the stack to the ground from a height of about 60 meters. With its
upper half removed, the chimney now stands 59 meters high.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13339580

May 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Buildings around Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in poor condition, unsafe

Fukushima Daiichi buildings pose safety risks,  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200427_24/ Tokyo Electric Power Company plans to draw up safety measures for workers after finding that some of the buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are in bad condition due to the 2011 accident.TEPCO on Monday reported to the Nuclear Regulation Authority the results of its survey of about 580 buildings in the compound.

The company says the condition of around 10 buildings, including the one that houses the No.4 reactor, have deteriorated due to the tsunami that triggered the accident and subsequent hydrogen explosions.

The NRA argues that the walls or other structures of these buildings could collapse in the event of an earthquake and injure people engaged in decommissioning work.

TEPCO says it will announce by the end of May how and when it will address the problem.

The utility also says it has inspected 340,000 pieces of equipment at the plant, and found that 36,000 of them lack devices that prevent leaks of radioactive materials as well as leak detectors.

April 28, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, safety | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s deadly hazard – highly radioactive sandbags

Nuclear sandbags too hot to handle,  https://www.theaustralian.com.au/world/the-times/nuclear-sandbags-too-hot-to-handle/news-story/87b811443cb8e2881f55e17108872880 By RICHARD LLOYD PARRY, THE TIMES. APRIL 1, 2020  

    Japanese engineers trying to dismantle the melted reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant face a new hazard — radioactive sandbags so deadly that standing next to them for a few minutes could be fatal.

The sandbags were intended to make life easier for the teams dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear disaster in 2011 when three reactors melted after a tsunami destroyed their cooling systems. Twenty-six tonnes of the bags were placed in basements beneath two of the reactors to ­absorb radioactivity from waste water.

They were stuffed with zeolite, minerals that can absorb caesium. Nine years after the disaster, the submerged sandbags have sucked up so much radiation that they now represent a deadly danger themselves.

Samples of zeolite removed from the bags contain caesium, producing huge amounts of radiation, while the sandbags are giving off up to four sieverts of radiation an hour. Fifteen minutes of exposure to this could cause haemorrhaging. After an hour, half of those exposed would eventually die as a result. The maximum lifetime recommended dose of radiation for humans is less than half a sievert.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), which operates the plant, had intended to remove the contaminated water by the end of 2020. The complication caused by the sand means it will take three years longer, the latest delay to the decommissioning.

Tepco managers have admitted that the technology needed to finish the job does not exist and they do not have a full idea of how it will be achieved. Their stated goal of decommissioning by 2051 may be impossible, they said.

One of the biggest problems is the 170 tonnes of irradiated water coming out of the plant every day, much of it natural ground water that flows through the earth ­towards the sea, picking up radiation on the way. Tepco pumps it out and stores it in huge storage tanks, filtered of some, but not all, of its contaminants — 1.17 million tonnes so far. In two years, the storage space will run out.

The government wants to pour the water away, insisting that the diluting effect of the ­Pacific will render the radiation harmless, but it is opposed by North and South Korea and the local fishing industry, whose reputation has been ruined by the disaster.

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, radiation, Reference | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s staggering costs to remove melted nuclear fuel from Fukushima’s crippled reactors

April 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Tepco has drafted a plan for disposing of Fukushima’s accumulation of waste water

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Release of Fukushima No 1 reactor’s radioactive water may take 30 years

Tepco may take 30 years to release Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water,  https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/25/national/tepco-fukushima-nuclear-plant-water/#.Xnvw-4gzbIU     Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Tuesday it may spend up to 20 to 30 years releasing contaminated water into the surrounding environment from its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The possible time span was mentioned in draft plans Tepco drew up in line with a government panel’s report in February, calling the release of the water into the ocean or the air in the form of vapor a “realistic option.”

The company currently stores roughly 119 tons of water that still contains tritium and other radioactive substances after passing through a treatment process at the nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The amount of contaminated water stored at the facility is still increasing.

According to the draft plans, Tepco will first conduct secondary treatment work to reduce the amount of radioactive substances in the water other than tritium — which cannot be removed by existing systems — to levels below national standards.

Following the treatment, the water will be released into the ocean, after being diluted with seawater to lower the radiation level to 1,500 becquerels per liter, or emitted into the air from a tall exhaust stack after being vaporized.

Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.

March 26, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

The clean-up of the Fukushima nuclear mess is not going to schedule – continual decommissioning delays

March 17, 2020 Posted by | decommission reactor, Fukushima continuing, Reference | 1 Comment

Fukushima’s huge accumulation of radioactive water – a pressing problem as Olympics approach

Contaminated water at nuclear plant still an issue ahead of Tokyo Olympics,  https://www.thecanary.co/global/world-news/2020/03/10/contaminated-water-at-nuclear-plant-still-an-issue-ahead-of-tokyo-olympics/  Work to deal with contaminated water at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant continues as the Olympic Games approach.

Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors.

The decontamination process is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organisations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase.  It is widely expected that Tepco will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so.

The company is still vague on the timing.

But local residents, especially fishermen, are opposed to the plan because they think the water release would hurt the reputation of already battered fisheries, where annual sales remain about half of the level before the nuclear accident, even though the catch has cleared strict radioactivity tests.

Tepco chief decommissioning officer Akira Ono says the water must be disposed as the plant’s decommissioning moves forward because the area used by the tanks is needed to build facilities for the retrieval of melted reactor debris.

Workers are planning to remove a first batch of melted debris by December 2021.

Remote control cranes are dismantling a highly contaminated exhaust tower near Unit 2, the first reactor to get its melted fuel removed.

At Unit 3, spent fuel units are being removed from a cooling pool ahead of the removal of melted fuel.

The dilemma over the ever-growing radioactive water is part of the complex aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11 2011, destroying key cooling functions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Three reactors melted, releasing massive amounts of radiation and forcing 160,000 residents to evacuate.

About 40,000 still have not returned.

Except for the highly radioactive buildings that house the melted reactors, most above-ground areas of the plant can now be visited while wearing just a surgical mask, cotton gloves, a helmet and a personal dosimeter.

The area right outside the plant is largely untouched and radiation levels are often higher.

The underground areas remain a hazardous mess.

Radioactive cooling water is leaking from the melted reactors and mixes with groundwater, which must be pumped up to keep it from flowing into the sea and elsewhere.

Separately, even more dangerously contaminated water sits in underground areas and leaks continuously into groundwater outside the plant, experts say.  The contaminated water pumped from underground first goes through caesium and strontium removal equipment, after which most is recycled as cooling water for the damaged reactors.

The contaminated water pumped from underground first goes through caesium and strontium removal equipment, after which most is recycled as cooling water for the damaged reactors.

Katsumi Shozugawa, a radiology expert at the University of Tokyo who has been analysing groundwater around the plant, said the long-term consequences of low-dose exposure in the food chain has not been fully investigated.

“At this point, it is difficult to predict a risk,” he said.

“Once the water is released into the environment, it will be very difficult to follow up and monitor its movement.

“So the accuracy of the data before any release is crucial and must be verified.”

After years of discussions about what to do with the contaminated water without destroying the local economy and its reputation, a government panel issued a report earlier this year that narrowed the water disposal options to two: diluting the treated water to levels below the allowable safety limits and then releasing it into the sea in a controlled way, or allowing the water to evaporate in a years-long process.

The report also urged the government to do more to fight the “reputational damage” to Fukushima fishing and farm produce, for instance by promoting food fairs, developing new sales routes and making use of third-party quality accreditation systems.

Tepco and government officials promise the plant will treat the water for a second time to meet legal requirements before any release.

At the end of a tour of the treatment facility, a plant official showed journalists a glass bottle containing clear water taken from the processing equipment.

Workers are required to routinely collect water samples for analysis at laboratories at the plant.

Radiology technicians were analysing the water at one lab.

Officials say the treated water will be diluted with fresh water before it is released into the environment.

Doubts about the plant’s water treatment escalated two years ago when Tepco acknowledged that most of the water stored in the tanks still contains cancer-causing caesium, strontium and other radioactive materials at levels exceeding safety limits.

March 12, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment