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South Korean Gov’t Concerned over Fukushima Daiichi’s Radioactive Water Release

Gov’t. Concerned over Japan Possibly Releasing Contaminated Water from Daiichi Plant

September 23, 2020

South Korea has expressed concerns over Japan strongly considering the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster site into the ocean.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said First Vice Minister Jeong Byung-seon revealed the plans in a virtual keynote speech during the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) on Wednesday.  

Jeong said the international community, including South Korea, is growing concerned and nervous about the environment and its safety as Japan mulls such a possibility.   

The vice minister stressed the need to thoroughly analyze the mid-  and long-term damage the release could have on the environment and the appropriate way to go about it, given that it could affect global marine environments.  

In particular, Jeong said that in line with international laws, Japan is obligated to communicate with the international community in a transparent manner ahead of deciding on ways to dispose of the contaminated water and proposed that the IAEA play a key role in that process.

S.Korea concerned about Fukushima waste water

September 23, 2020

South Korea has again expressed its concerns about Japan’s plan to release into the sea radioactive wastewater building up at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The first vice minister of South Korea’s science ministry Jeong Byungseon was speaking at a general meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday.

He said “releasing contaminated water into the ocean is not an issue of Japan itself, but one that could have a wider impact on the global marine environment, as well as the neighboring countries.”

He said Japan has “an overarching obligation to make transparent, concrete communication within the global society,” including South Korea, before making any disposal decision.

He asked the IAEA to play a proactive role in the issue.

At last year’s IAEA general meeting, South Korea raised questions about the issue and criticized Japan.

On Monday, Japan’s Science and Technology Policy Minister Inoue Shinji told the meeting that Japan is studying ways to dispose of the water, taking into consideration advice from the IAEA. He stressed Japan will provide careful and transparent explanations to the global community.

In February, a Japanese government expert panel came up with a report saying that diluting the wastewater below environmental and other standards, and discharging it into the sea, as well as vaporizing and releasing it into the air are realistic options.

The government plans to make a decision after hearing opinions from local residents and groups.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

9 1/2 years after meltdowns, no end in sight for Fukushima nuke plant decommissioning

The No. 1 reactor building is seen at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 1, 2020.

September 22, 2020

It has been some 9 1/2 years since the triple-meltdown disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeast Japan, and in early September I visited the plant to get a close-up look at the reactor buildings and find out how much progress is being made in dismantling them.

The trip began aboard a microbus, which stopped on an inland promontory running north to south at an elevation of 33.5 meters above sea level. Getting off the bus, I looked east, over the Pacific Ocean. And then I saw them, just 100 meters away or so: the buildings containing the plant’s No. 1 to 4 reactors.

When a tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake slammed into the coastal facility, reactors 1 to 3 were online, while No. 4 was shut down for a regular inspection. There were core meltdowns in all three of the active reactors, with the fuel mixing with material from the surrounding structure as it melted and turned into “fuel debris.” Later, the No. 4 reactor building, connected to the No. 3 building by plumbing, was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion.

To complicate matters further, the reactor buildings had fuel storage pools each containing between 392 and 1,534 nuclear fuel rods. However, the plant workers managed to keep the rods cool, averting a major secondary disaster.

On my visit, the No. 3 reactor building is encased in what looks like a Baumkuchen layer cake stood upright. Inside, operations are underway to remove the fuel rods from the 12-meter-deep storage pool.

“There’s a newly installed crane in there to take the fuel out,” said our guide Masayuki Ueda, who is a manager at the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning unit of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO).

The hydrogen explosion choked the pool and surrounding area with debris, including fragments of the roof and bits of nearby machinery. Even after the clearing of this debris, equipment and other problems delayed the fuel removal operation by more than four years. The process finally got underway in April 2019. The special crane lifts the some 300-kilogram rods out of the pool one at a time, and they are then taken to a pool in a separate building. Of the 566 rods, 366 had been removed as of Sept. 11, 2020. Due to the high radiation in the building itself, the crane is operated remotely from a control facility about 500 meters away.

The hardest part of the task is yet to come; the handles on 16 of the rods were warped by falling debris, and can’t be extracted by the crane as they are. TEPCO is apparently working on a “grabbing tool” for the crane to lift out the damaged rods, among other methods, in hopes to finish the removal project by March 2021.

We get back on the microbus and head down the hill to a spot where we can look up at the No. 4 reactor building. Here, too, we can see the machinery for the so-called underground ice wall surrounding the No. 1-4 reactors.

Groundwater from the mountains flows relentlessly beneath the power station. The walls in the basement levels of the reactor buildings were cracked in the March 2011 quake, letting in the groundwater and rainwater that has come into contact with the nuclear fuel debris, contaminating it. The “ice wall,” which TEPCO began making in May 2013, is TEPCO’s attempt to control the problem.

The wall is made up of some 1,500 pipes sunk 30 meters into the ground, creating a subterranean perimeter about 1.5 kilometers long around the reactor buildings. Liquid cooled to minus 30 degrees Celsius is then run through the pipes, freezing the soil around them. The Japanese treasury spent about 34.5 billion yen (about $330.7 million) to make the wall, and the electricity and other maintenance to keep it going costs hundreds of millions of yen per year. These latter outlays are passed on to consumers in their power bills.

Previously, the stricken plant produced up to 600 metric tons of contaminated water per day. However, thanks to pumping up groundwater on the landward side of the plant and other measures, that was down to 160 tons per day in April through July this year. Under the plant decommissioning plan, TEPCO and the Japanese government intend to reduce that to 150 tons per day by the end of 2020, and 100 tons by 2025. TEPCO has said that, with work on new roofs over the reactor buildings proceeding, it believes it can meet the 150 ton target this year.

Meanwhile, with radiation levels around the reactor buildings gradually declining, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) believes it is the moment to consider going into the basement levels to patch the cracks in the walls. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa has said that “it’s about time to start discussing when to halt” the ice wall operation.

There are experts who doubt the efficacy of the ice wall. In 2018, TEPCO estimated the wall alone was preventing 95 tons of contaminated water from being generated per day. However, Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the nonprofit organization Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, told the Mainichi Shimbun, “There needs to be an inquiry into whether the ice wall was ever really necessary.”

Parts of the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning plan have been delayed repeatedly since its release in December 2011. At that time, the plan stated it would take 30-40 years to complete the project. However, after seeing the power station up close, I find it hard to imagine this.

(Japanese original by Suzuko Araki, Science and Environment News Department)

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

S. Korea renews concerns over possible release of tainted Fukushima water

The logo of the Ministry of Science and ICT at its main offices in the central city of Sejong, 130 kilometers south of Seoul, is shown in this undated photo provided by the ministry

September 22, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Tuesday reiterated its concerns over Japan’s potential move to release radioactive water from its disabled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

Japan has been mulling over options to discharge the water from the nuclear plant, which was devastated by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in March 2011.

An estimated 1.1 million tons of tainted water is in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

South Korea’s Vice Minister of Science and ICT Jeong Byung-seon renewed concerns over Japan’s potential move in a recorded message at an annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA), according to the science ministry.

The general conference of the U.N. nuclear watchdog was held partially online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jeong said releasing the tainted water would impact the global marine environment and that its method and long-term environmental risks need careful consideration through cooperation with global agencies, such as the IAEA.

The vice minister also called for an active role of the IAEA to facilitate transparency in the water’s disposal process, adding that Japan’s disposal plans should follow international law, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The science ministry said the vice minister will convey South Korea’s concerns to IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in a separate meeting Wednesday.

The fallout of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has been a source of contention between the two neighboring countries, with South Korea imposing a ban on all seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima in 2013.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Daiichi workers use ‘smart glasses’

Sept. 20, 2020

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has started using wearable electronic glasses to analyze water in and around the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, analyzes the concentration of radioactive substances and water quality and releases the data on a daily basis.

The “smart glasses” display information, such as work procedures and analytical graphs, on the liquid crystal screen.

When a QR code is scanned with the small camera, sampling locations and information on the person in charge are automatically recorded. Workers can also input the date and time by using their voices.

The data entry work has previously been carried out by hand with check sheets. TEPCO says the new glasses have made it possible for 30 of about 140 workers to be given other tasks. The utility says it plans to assign the 30 workers to analyze fuel debris.

A TEPCO official in charge of decommissioning the damaged reactors says it requires a lot of effort to input a huge amount of data by hand and there have been some errors, but the glasses should improve accuracy and productivity.

The official also says the company wants to accelerate the decommissioning process by helping employees to work more efficiently.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan fiddles with the idea of unleashing tainted water at Fukushima

September. 18, 2020

Concerns are resurfacing that the contaminated water from the Fukushima power plants could be discharged into the sea with Suga Yoshihide sworn in as new prime minister of Japan. Mr. Suga previously said whoever takes power next should tackle the issue of the radioactive contamination at Fukushima plant.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has embarked on the process of cutting the amount of the contaminated water currently stored at the premises of Fukushima power plants, down to the discharge level of radioactive substances set by the Japanese regulatory authorities. Some experts say that the state-run power corporation is preparing to let loose the water tainted with radioactive materials from Fukushima meltdown. Pundits argue that transparency of information is necessary to verify whether the radioactive nuclide density can be curtailed below the threshold as interned.

As of last year, the reactors at the Fukushima power plant site are belching an average 180 tons of contaminated water each day. This includes the massive amount of underground water that has been seeping into the nuclear reactors since 2013 in addition to the artificial influx of water. In February, the Japanese government reached the conclusion to unleash the water into the seas, with the storage capacity within the premises expected to reach the limit in August 2022.

TEPCO’s clean-up operation aims to reduce the discrepancy of radioactive density and cut the amount of discharging below standard for each type of nuclides. After upgrading and replacing the filters at multi-nuclide removal facility (ALPS), the process involves purifying the reservoir of the tainted water, checking the radioactive density, and processing the water again in the event density should exceed the threshold.

“The IAEA’s review has not found any issue with the performance of ALPS,” said Kim Yun-woo, a manager at the department of disaster prevention environment of the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. “From a technical point of view, the purification process will likely bring down the density to meet the discharge standard, but in practice, we need to wait and see how much the water can get purified.”

The issue at hand is tritium. When the density is higher than a certain level, partial purification can be achieved through removal equipment. But the density of tritium in Fukushima water stands at 580,000 Bq per liter, impossibly low to remove with any equipment. Yet it is much higher than the discharge threshold at 60,000 Bq. There is known to be no effective technology to remove tritium under such circumstances.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

16-meter seawall planned for Fukushima Daiichi

September 14, 2020

The operator of the damaged nuclear power plant in Fukushima, northeastern Japan, plans to build a taller seawall to help protect against future high seismic sea waves.

The move comes in response to the projection made in April by a government panel on the scale of tsunami that could be triggered by a massive quake along the Japan Trench in the deep sea off northeastern Japan.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, analyzed the projection and found that waves as high as 14.1 meters could engulf the Fukushima Daiichi plant compound, where the No.1 to No.4 reactors are located. It also found that waves of up to 15.3 meters high could hit south of the No. 4 reactor.

An 11-meter seawall is under construction on the ocean side of the plant compound. In an area south of the No. 4 reactor, another sea wall that is 12.8 meters high has already been completed.

TEPCO officials on Monday agreed to build another seawall measuring up to 16 meters high to protect these areas before the end of March 2023.

The wall is one of the anti-tsunami measures being taken by TEPCO as it decommissions the plant.

Work is under way to block the openings of the reactor buildings. Power supply vehicles are also deployed on higher ground to continue cooling spent nuclear fuel.

Nearly 1,000 tanks of radioactive wastewater are stored in the compound. TEPCO says the projected tsunami won’t reach the higher ground where these tanks are located.

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Video analysis prompts new theory on Fukushima explosion

Septembre 4, 2020

Experts revise their theory surrounding a hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011 based on Nippon TV’s reprocessing of footage an affiliate took of the event.

September 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Japan should leave radioactive water in current storage tanks

Hajime Matsukubo, general-secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, says an ocean dump doesn’t make sense

7715976536687178Hajime Matsukubo, general secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC)


What’s the most practical and safest way to handle the radioactive water being stored at Fukushima? According to Hajime Matsukubo, general-secretary of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), the contaminated water should be left in the aboveground tanks where it’s currently being stored. In a recent email interview with the Hankyoreh, Matsukubo said it doesn’t make sense to release the water into the ocean just because the tanks are running low on space.

The CNIC is a Japanese NGO that was set up in 1975 under nuclear physicist Jinzaburo Takagi, a leading figure in the campaign against nuclear power in Japan. Matsukubo is an active researcher, lecturer, and publisher of materials related to the anti-nuclear movement. The interview is presented below.

Hankyoreh (Hani): When do you think the final decision will be made about dumping the contaminated water at Fukushima into the ocean?

Hajime Matsukubo: TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] says it will dilute the contaminated water before dumping it into the ocean, which means that a dilution facility would have to be built. Given the time required to get a building permit, I think the final decision will be made this summer or fall.

Japan wants an ocean dump because it’s the cheapest option

Hani: Why do you think the Japanese government is pushing so hard to dump the water into the ocean?

Matsukubo: Not only Japan but all countries that operate nuclear reactors end up with tritium as a byproduct, which they then release into the ocean or the atmosphere. I see this decision as an extension of that. Another factor is that releasing the water into the ocean is the cheapest option.

Hani: There seems to be considerable opposition to the plan in Japan as well.

Matsukubo: Many citizens are opposed to it. Pushback has been particularly strong from fishermen, who are likely to be harmed by the rumors [about the danger of the radioactive matter being released, which could cause people not to visit or eat food from Fukushima]. Lawmakers at city councils in Fukushima Prefecture have adopted a series of resolutions voicing concerns about releasing the contaminated water.

Hani: Do you think that negative public opinion in Japan is capable of changing government policy?

Matsukubo: Since the fishermen are direct stakeholders, I think their opposition will have a big impact. TEPCO has promised not to release the water without the consent of local communities in Fukushima. I think the key is opposing voices in Japan and increasing pressure from overseas.

Hani: Do South Korea or environmental groups in other countries have any way to sanction Japan for releasing contaminated water into the ocean?

Matsukubo: They could consider filing a lawsuit based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. But a large amount of tritium is already being released from Korea’s nuclear plants, especially the Wolseong plant. It would be rather difficult to prove that contaminated water released from Fukushima Daiichi [No. 1] is having an impact.

There’s plenty of land that could be used for additional storage

Hani: What’s the most practical and safest way to deal with the contaminated water?

Matsukubo: The contaminated water at Fukushima should be left in the aboveground tanks where it’s currently being stored. [The government] says there’s no more room at Fukushima Daiichi, but there is. There’s a huge amount of land that could be used to store the radioactive wastewater. While the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry says that land can’t be appropriated for other uses, the government [could and] should negotiate with the landowners. It’s absurd to dump radioactive water into the ocean because there’s not enough storage space in the tanks. Japanese NGOs are suggesting that the government continue storing the water in the aboveground tanks and seal them off with concrete. They’re warning the government that releasing the water into the ocean would create international problems.

S. Korea, Japan both need to reassess their reprocessing plans

Hani: Do you have a message for South Korea’s civic society?

Matsukubo: The Japanese government is pursuing a policy of creating a nuclear fuel cycle that would recycle plutonium and uranium from the spent nuclear fuel produced by reactors. This policy requires reprocessing plants that are currently under construction at Rokkasho, in Aomori Prefecture, which are supposed to begin operations in 2021. These plants will release a large amount of radioactive matter into the ocean and the atmosphere. In terms of tritium alone, the amount released will be 10 times worse than the contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. That’s a very serious problem, just as releasing the contaminated water would be.

In South Korea, the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute is taking the lead in R&D projects related to reprocessing spent nuclear fuel. The problems with reprocessing plants don’t end here. Plutonium can be used as a raw material for making nuclear weapons. I think that South Korea and Japanese citizens need to join forces to shut down both countries’ reprocessing plans.

By Kim So-youn, staff reporter

September 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan pushes forward with plans to dump radioactive water into ocean, despite public opposition

Tokyo may dump contaminated water as early as September

8615976536687837Storage tanks for water contaminated with radioactive matter from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.


During the past three months, while the international community was focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has held five public hearings as it moves forward with its decision to dump radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the ocean. After analyzing the transcripts and videos from the hearings, the Hankyoreh has concluded that the Japanese government will probably decide to dump the water as early as September or October, despite overwhelming public opposition to the plan, even in Japan. Since a study has found that the contaminated water could reach the eastern coast of South Korea within a year of being dumped, international groups focusing on the environment and experts in international law are calling for the South Korean government to take preemptive action in the area of international law.

Following an explosion during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was closed and is being decommissioned, a process that has taken nine years so far. But debate continues about how to deal with the growing volume of water contaminated with radioactivity, including the water used to cool the nuclear fuel and rainwater and groundwater that have seeped into the buildings. The contaminated water is currently being stored in tanks, but by the summer of 2022, the Japanese government says, the tanks will run out of space, necessitating the water’s release into the ocean.

The Japanese government, under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, held video hearings about how to deal with the contaminated water on Apr. 6, Apr. 13, May 11, June 30, and July 17. These hearings were attended not only by representatives from the fishing, agriculture, and hospitality businesses and community leaders from Fukushima Prefecture but also the national tourist council and groups representing businesses and consumers. The government was represented by officials from 10 or so ministries, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, the Ministry of the Environment, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Radioactive matter detected in water even after decontamination

While reviewing the hearings, the Hankyoreh learned that radioactive matter has been detected even following decontamination efforts, that releasing the water would likely cement Fukushima’s stigma as an area tainted with radioactivity and have a serious impact on the fishing industry, and that there was widespread opposition to the idea among hearing attendees, who argued that the final decision shouldn’t be made until public opinion has been canvassed.

An August 2019 report by international environmental group Greenpeace about the contaminated water at Fukushima found that the water, once released, would flow through the East China Sea and be brought via the Kuroshio Current and the Tsushima Current to South Korea’s eastern shore within a year. Disregarding the concerns of the international community, the Japanese government released a draft of a plan this past March to dump the contaminated water at Fukushima into the ocean over the course of 30 years. Given the plan’s schedule, which involves the construction of a facility to dilute the contaminated water, its decision will likely be made by this October. Abe told the press in an interview in March that he wants to finalize a plan as quickly as possible.

The Japanese government intends to make its final decision after canvassing the opinions of Fukushima residents, related organizations, and ordinary citizens. But even in the Japanese public, there’s fierce opposition to dumping the contaminated water. The Hankyoreh’s analysis of the transcripts and videos from the five hearings show that most of the 37 participants were concerned about the plan to release the water.

It’s human nature to avoid radioactive materials. It’s a serious problem that there’s still radioactivity even in the decontaminated water, which contradicts what TEPCO [Tokyo Electric Power Company] initially said,” said Hidenori Koito, the director of a trade association for the hospitality industry in Fukushima Prefecture.

80% of water contains radioactive matter beyond permissible levels

TEPCO claimed to have filtered out 62 kinds of radioactive material through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and all that’s left is tritium, which is technically difficult to remove from the contaminated water in the tanks. But a 2018 study found that 80% of the water processed using ALPS still contained more than the permitted level of radioactive matter that is deadly to the human body, including cesium, strontium, and iodine. While TEPCO has emphasized that it would decontaminate the water once more to ensure its safety prior to release, distrust has already surged.

Another criticism is that dumping the water would spoil the nine-year campaign by Fukushima residents to repair the area’s reputation. “If the contaminated water is released into the ocean, people will inevitably think there’s another radiation leak at Fukushima, given the nuclear accident that occurred there,” said Kimio Akimoto, president of a coalition of forestry associations in the prefecture.

Vehement opposition from fishermen

An even sterner stance was taken by fishermen, who depend upon the ocean for their livelihood. “It’s unacceptable for radioactive matter to be deliberately pumped into the ocean,” said Tetsu Nozaki, president of a coalition of fishery cooperatives in Fukushima Prefecture. The national coalition of fishery cooperatives voted on July 23 to “oppose” the planned release of contaminated water.

There are also concerns that the government is rushing the plan. “The Japanese public doesn’t know the details about the contaminated water yet. The final decision shouldn’t be made until people understand what it means to dump contaminated water into the ocean,” said Yuki Urago, secretary-general of a national coalition of consumers’ associations.

Right now, the Japanese public is focused on COVID-19. It’s doubtful whether the issue of contaminated water at Fukushima can provoke a national debate in this situation,” said Yuko Endo, mayor of Kawauchi, a village in Fukushima Prefecture.

Japan took an unusually long opinion canvassing period

Before deciding on important policies, the Japanese government has a practice of canvassing opinions, a process known as the “public comment” period. The relevant ministry here, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, began collecting comments on Apr. 6 and took the unusual step of extending that period three times, only wrapping it up at the end of last month. One reason the government may have extended the comment period is because of the overwhelming opposition to releasing the contaminated water into the ocean.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Council released a statement expressing “deep concerns” about “a report indicating that the Japanese government is accelerating its timeframe for releasing water contaminated with radioactivity at Fukushima.” South Korea, given its proximity to Japan and the ocean, has set up a government-wide task force under the Office of the Prime Minister to keep tabs on the Japanese government’s actions.

We’re asking Japan to share adequate information while it’s processing the contaminated water at the Fukushima nuclear plant. We’re monitoring the situation from various angles to see what impact this will have on us,” explained an official from South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

By Kim So-youn, staff reporter


September 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s Contaminated Wastewater Could Be Too Risky to Dump in the Ocean

ssfsq7teavc1ccedikwz-732x410A person walks past storage tanks for contaminated water at the company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant


August 7, 2020

Almost a decade ago, the Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami triggered an explosion at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing the most severe nuclear accident since Chernobyl and releasing an unprecedented amount of radioactive contamination in the ocean. In the years since, there’s been a drawn out cleanup process, and water radiation levels around the plant have fallen to safe levels everywhere except for in the areas closest to the now-closed plant. But as a study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution published in Science on Thursday shows, there’s another growing hazard: contaminated wastewater.

Radioactive cooling water is leaking out of the the melted-down nuclear reactors and mixing with the groundwater there. In order to prevent the groundwater from leaking into the ocean, the water is pumped into more than 1,000 tanks. Using sophisticated cleaning processes, workers have been able to remove some of this contamination and divert groundwater flows, reducing the amount of water that must be collected each day. But those tanks are filling up, and some Japanese officials have suggested that the water should dumped into the ocean to free up space.

The water in the tanks goes through an advanced treatment system to remove many radioactive isotopes. The Japanese utility company TEPCO, which is handling the cleanup processes, claims that these processes remove all radioactive particles from the water except tritium, an isotope of hydrogen which is nearly impossible remove but is considered to be relatively harmless. It decays in about 12 years, which is faster than other isotopes, is not easily absorbed by marine life, and is not as damaging to living tissue as other forms of radiation.

But according to the new study, that’s not the only radioactive contaminant left in the tanks. By examining TEPCO’s own 2018 data, WHOI researcher Ken Buesseler found that other isotopes remain in the treated wastewater, including carbon-14, cobalt-60, and strontium-90. He found these particles all take much longer to decay than tritium, and that fish and marine organisms absorb them comparatively easily.

[This] means they could be potentially hazardous to humans and the environment for much longer and in more complex ways than tritium,” the study says.

Though TEPCO’s data shows there is far less of these contaminants in the wastewater tanks than tritium, Buesseler notes that their levels vary widely from tank to tank, and that “more than 70% of the tanks would need secondary treatment to reduce concentrations below that required by law for their release.”

The study says we don’t currently have a good idea of how those more dangerous isotopes would behave in the water. We can’t assume they will behave the same way tritium does in the ocean because they have such different properties. And since there are different levels of each isotope in each different tank, each tank will need its own assessment.

To assess the consequences of the tank releases, a full accounting after any secondary treatments of what isotopes are left in each tank is needed,” the study said.

Buesseler also calls for an analysis of what other contaminants could be in the tanks, such as plutonium. Even though it wasn’t reported in high amounts in the atmosphere in 2011, recent research shows it may have been dispersed when the explosion occurred. Buesseler fears it may also be present in the cooling waters being used at the plant. That points to the need to take a fuller account of the wastewater tanks before anything is done to dump them in the ocean.

The first step is to clean up those additional radioactive contaminants that remain in the tanks, and then make plans based on what remains,” he said in a statement. “Any option that involves ocean releases would need independent groups keeping track of all of the potential contaminants in seawater, the seafloor, and marine life.”

Many Japanese municipalities have been pushing the government to reconsider its ocean dumping plans and opt to find a long-term storage solution instead, which makes sense, considering exposure to radioactive isotopes can cause myriad health problems to people. It could also hurt marine life, which could have a devastating impact on fishing economies and on ecosystems.

The health of the ocean — and the livelihoods of countless people — rely on this being done right,” said Buesseler.

August 15, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s plans for radioactive discharges violates principles of environmental protection and defies international maritime law


The threat of a million tonnes of highly contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi being discharged into the Pacific Ocean includes the potential environmental and human impacts, but also how a decision by the Japanese government relates to international law. What we conclude is that such a decision poses a direct threat to the marine environment, including that of the jurisdictional waters of the Korean peninsula. As such, Japan would be in breach of its obligations as defined under international environmental law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that Korea government has rights to oppose the discharging in the legal perspective.

The discharge of radioactivity into the marine environment from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will inevitably increase exposure to marine species. The level of exposure depends on multiple variables. The concentrations are of direct relevance to those who may consume them, including marine species, ultimately, humans. The 1.2 million tons of highly contaminated water in nearly 1000 storage tanks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant currently has concentrations of radioactive tritium much higher than is permitted under Japanese regulation permissible for discharge into the ocean. Concerns are that the high relative biological effectiveness (RBE) of tritium’s beta radiation, its ability to bind with cell constituents to form organically-bound tritium (OBT) and its short-range beta particle, meaning it can damage DNA.

It is more important to remember that 800,000 tons of this water contains not only tritium but also contains other hazardous radioactive materials, including strontium-90, as a result of the failure of the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) technology operating during the last 9 years. There are 30,000 megaBecquerels of strontium-90 in the storage now which is absorbed by the body in a similar manner to calcium where it increases the risk of developing leukemia cancer. To give some perspective on this amount of strontium-90, it is what an average Pressurized Water Reactor would discharge in its liquid waste every year if it were to operate for 120,000 years, more than half the number of years humans have inhabited the earth. Even more threatening is that these discharges are only a small fraction of the radioactive inventory of what remains at the site. Most strontium-90 still remains in the molten cores at the site, an amount 17.3 million times more than would be released under the Japanese government’s plans for the contaminated water. And there are many other radionuclides present in the contaminated water with even longer half lives – iodine-129 for example is 13 million years.

For South Korea, the impacts of this radiation exposure is of great importance to the fishing communities, the wider population and the Government. The toxic cocktail of radionuclides from Fukushima Daiichi will rapidly disperse through the strong coastal currents along Japan’s Pacific coast, and would enter the East Sea via the East China Sea, including the waters of the Korean peninsula. We know this as a result of sea water sampling following the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

The South Korean government has rightly challenged the Japanese government over its plans for the Fukushima contaminated water, including at the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO). In November 2019 at the IMO they were joined in their opposition by the People’s Republic of China. While the Japanese government is looking to make a decision later this year the actual discharges would not take place for several more years. It is vitally important that the Korean government continue its efforts to protect the marine environment and the health and livelihoods of its citizens, including fishing communities, by challenging in every way possible the plans of the Japanese government.


15965317898548_9815965315211388Shaun Burnie


In addition to the requirements under the IMO, Japan is required to comply with international law that prohibits significant transboundary environmental harm, both to the territory of other States and to areas beyond national jurisdiction. Before any discharge into the Pacific Ocean, Japan is required to conduct an Environment Impact Assessment under Article 206 of UNCLOS. International radio-protection principles require that a decision to increase radioactivity in the environment must be justified, and if there is a viable alternative – in this case long term storage – it cannot be justified.


There is a clear alternative to discharging over 1.2 million tons of highly contaminated into the environment. There never was a justification for further deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment from Fukushima Daiichi; and, in the interests of protection of that environment as well as public safety, as well a compliance with its international legal obligations, the only acceptable way forward for the Japanese government is to terminate its discharge plans, commit to long term storage and processing.


9515965315210751Duncan E. J. Currie


By  Duncan E. J. Currie and Shaun Burnie

Duncan Currie is a practicing international and environmental lawyer. He has practiced international law and environmental law for nearly thirty years, and over that time has advised NGOs, corporations and governments on a wide range of environmental issues including the law of the sea, nuclear and waste issues.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, with much of his time based in Japan. He has worked on nuclear issues in Asia, the former Soviet Union, Europe, North and South America and the Middle East for 35 years. He has worked against the operation of the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi reactors since 1997.


August 7, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan needs to halt its plan to dump contaminated water from Fukushima immediately

8215965299187326A TEPCO employee tells reporters about the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in June 2017.


With the world’s attention focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, the Japanese government has been pushing forward with its preparations to dump contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean. After first announcing an initial plan last March for discharging the water into the sea over a period of 30 years, the Shinzo Abe administration held five hearings between April and July, with a final decision on the dump reportedly likely to come within the month of October. The Abe administration has disregarded the concerns and opposition of local residents and the international community while pursuing a measure that will cause irreversible contamination to our oceans. It must stop immediately.

In a recent hearing, Fukushima residents and fishermen voiced strong opposition to dumping radioactive water into the ocean, a plan that they labeled “unacceptable.” The position of the Japanese government is that the storage tanks that have held contaminated rainwater and groundwater since the nuclear accident will run out of room in the summer of 2022, forcing an ocean dump. But civic groups have criticized the government for attempting to ram through its dumping plan as the cheapest option, even though more tanks could be safely installed after re-zoning large tracts of land around the Fukushima reactor.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the reactor, argues that all radioactive matter but tritium has been removed from the contaminated water in the tanks through purification based on the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). TEPCO argues that the tritium that would be released along with the contaminated water is no worse than the tritium that’s already released into the ocean and atmosphere during the operation of nuclear reactors around the world. But the 1.2 million tons of contaminated water that TEPCO claims has been “processed” still contains between 100 and 20,000 times the permitted amount of cancer- and mutation-causing matter, according to international environmental group Greenpeace.

According to Greenpeace’s analysis, contaminated water from the reactor, once released into the ocean, would be carried by ocean currents to South Korea’s east coast within a year. Exposing the east coast to water contaminated with deadly radioactivity for 30 years would present a serious threat to the maritime ecosystem and to public health. The UN Human Rights Council released a statement in June expressing grave concern about reports indicating that the Japanese government is accelerating plans to dump radioactive water from Fukushima.

The Korean government has set up a task force under the Office of the Prime Minister to track the steps taken by the Japanese government, but it needs to ask for more information and work even harder to sound the alarm in the international community. As a neighbor, Korea has every right to raise the issue with the Japanese government. Seoul needs to press the issue, both in Tokyo and in other countries, for the sake of Koreans’ health and the future of East Asia.


August 7, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Robot to use brush to retrieve melted fuel at Fukushima plant

jkllmmThe robotic arm to be used for collecting melted fuel at the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant (Provided by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning)

hkjlkmA vacuum vessel to collect powdered nuclear debris (Provided by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning)

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.

The No. 2 reactor, along with the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, suffered meltdowns following the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011.

The situation inside the No. 2 reactor is relatively known through past inspections. It has been confirmed that apparent debris in the lower part of its containment vessel can be collected with a robot.

Measuring 22 meters long and weighing 4.6 tons, the robotic arm will be made of high-strength stainless steel so it will not bend when stretched out.

It will be inserted into a closed box connected to a hole made on the side of the containment vessel and remotely operated to prevent radioactive substances from being released.

The arm will attach powdered nuclear debris to its brush and also suck the debris with its vacuum vessel.

Under the plan, debris totaling approximately 1 gram or so will be collected in each of the several rounds of the trial procedure.

An experiment will start in Britain as early as August with the use of a model of the containment vessel.

The robotic arm will be transported to Japan around February for the training of operators at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s facility in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture.

The retrieved fuel will be measured for weight and radiation levels, put in a metal transfer vessel and moved to an analysis center in Ibaraki Prefecture.

In the full-scale retrieval stage, different equipment will be used.

Melted fuel to be removed is estimated to record a radiation reading of 6 millisieverts per hour even at distances of 20 centimeters from it.

That means the annual dose limit for ordinary individuals of 1 millisievert will be reached in 10 minutes.

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.

August 3, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Plutonium Particles Scattered 200km From Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Site, Scientists Say


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. Though radiation levels post the Fukushima disaster were much lower than Chernobyl, individuals living near the region still suffer from the aftermath of everything the disaster put them through, fear of poisoning and psychological paranoia, as they attempt to bring life back to normal.

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

Fukushima may have scattered plutonium widely

PW2018-01-drinkwater_pic2-635x476The upper side of the unit 3 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi was damaged by a hydrogen explosion. This area housed the spent fuel pool and the fuel handling machines.

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.

The disaster at Fukushima occurred after a magnitude-9 earthquake struck off the north-east coast of Japan and sent a 14 m-high tsunami crashing over the plant’s seawalls. With low-lying back-up generators knocked out, the site’s three operating reactors overheated and melted down. At the same time, hot steam reacted with the zirconium cladding of the nuclear fuel, generating hydrogen gas that exploded when it escaped from containment.

Caesium is a volatile fission product created in nuclear fuel. During the Fukushima meltdown, it combined with silica gas created when melting fuel and other reactor materials interacted with the concrete below the damaged reactor vessel. The resulting glass particles, known as caesium-rich microparticles (CsMPs), measure a few microns or tens of microns across.

Satoshi Utsunomiya and Eitaro Kurihara at Kyushu University and colleagues in Japan, Europe and the US analysed three such particles obtained from soil samples dug up at two sites within a few kilometres of the Fukushima plant. They used a range of techniques to study the physical and chemical composition of these CsMPs, with the aim of establishing whether they contained any plutonium.

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.

Utsunomiya and colleagues used electron microscopy and synchrotron X-ray fluorescence to look inside the CsMPs. Based on these data, they were able to map the distribution of various elements coming from materials within the damaged reactors – including iron from stainless steel, zirconium and tin from the fuel cladding and zinc from cooling water. They also found uranium within one of the CsMPs, in the form of discrete uranium oxide particles less than 10 nm across.

However, the researchers were unable to find any traces of plutonium using these methods – probably due to interference from strontium, another fission product. Instead, they turned to X-ray absorption. To compensate for high levels of noise, they carried out the measurement at two different synchrotrons, transporting their roughly 20 µm diameter particle from Japan to be blasted with X-rays at the Diamond facility in the UK and the Swiss Light Source in Switzerland.

The researchers focused their attention on the three areas of the particle that generated the most fluorescence from uranium. They failed to detect plutonium at two of these locations, but succeeded at the third, with absorption spectra produced at both synchrotrons indicating the element’s presence. The low signal-to-noise ratio meant they couldn’t identify exactly which plutonium species were present, but the shape of the spectra told them that it probably existed as an oxide, rather than as a pure metal.

Utsunomiya and co-workers also used mass spectrometry to measure the relative abundance of different plutonium and uranium isotopes within the microparticles. They found that three ratios – uranium-235 to uranium-238, as well as plutonium-239 compared to both plutonium-240 and -242 – all agreed with calculations of the proportions that would have been present in the fuel at the time of the disaster. This agreement, coupled with the fact that the measured amount of uranium-238 was nearly two orders of magnitude greater than would be the case if it had simply evaporated from the melted fuel, led them to conclude that the uranium and plutonium existed as discrete fuel particles within 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.

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