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Radioactive Water “Possibly” Leaked From Reactors For Months “By Error” Says Tepco

wrong gauges measuring 28 sept 2017.jpgA Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) employee (center) speaks to the media in front of a monitor in the refrigerator building at the company’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, in Okuma, Fukushima, Japan, on February 23. The company’s attempt to clean up and recover the wrecked site has been beset by frequent delays and rising costs.

 

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Radioactive Water May Have Been Leaking From Reactors for Months

The Japanese company in charge of cleaning up one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters said Friday its latest error may have caused contaminated water to leak into the ground for nearly half a year.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said it erroneously configured gauges used to measure groundwater levels in six wells near Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant reactors Nos. 1 through 4, all of which were destroyed when a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the Japanese coast and caused a series of meltdowns at the plant.

The false readings, which have been relied on since April 19 and were discovered this week, meant that groundwater levels were actually more than two feet below what Tepco was measuring, The Japan Times reported. The company said this mistake caused groundwater levels to fall below the limit set to prevent radioactive water from flowing out of the plant and into the nearby wells, known as subdrains, at least once, in May.

Tepco spokesperson Shinichi Nakakuk said, however, the company’s readings did not show any significant increases in radioactivity outside of the facilities and that a leak was unlikely, according to Sky News.

Between May 17 and May 21, groundwater reportedly fell as much as 7 and a half inches below the safety levels at least eight times. Tepco has not been able to determine how long the dangerous levels persisted because they only measure the site hourly. Company officials said they were still investigating the incident, according to Japan’s NHK news outlet.

More than 15,000 people were killed when an earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck Japan’s east coast, where the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located. The threat of radioactive contamination following meltdowns at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant’s Nos.1, 2 and 3 reactors, as well as massive damage to the fourth, forced 150,000 residents to evacuate, most of whom have yet to return.

Since the disaster, plant owner Tepco has struggled through the recovery process, the price tag of which was raised to $192 billion last year, according to Reuters. The leading obstacle that the company faces is extracting the nuclear fuel that remains in the plant’s damaged nuclear reactors. The severe radiation levels have “killed” even robots specifically designed to swim underwater and detect the location of the melted nuclear fuel.

Lava-like rocks believed to be the elusive nuclear fuel were finally discovered in July using a small, custom-built robot known as “Little Sunfish,” according to Sky News. Actually removing the deadly substance, however, has once again been delayed and would not likely begin until 2023, according to Japanese officials.

Japan’s latest plan to clean up the site did not make any mention of what Tepco would do with about 777,000 tons of water contaminated with tritium, a nuclear byproduct that’s notoriously difficult to remove once mixed with water. In July, Tepco chairman Takashi Kawamura said the “decision has already been made” to dump the tritium-tainted water into the Pacific Ocean; however, he later said he would need Tokyo’s support to go through with the measure.

While Tepco and experts have said dumping the tritium-laced water used to cool down the reactors into the ocean would be relatively harmless, local fishermen and environmental activists have condemned the potential solution, saying it would further hurt the already damaged reputation of the region.

http://www.newsweek.com/fukushima-nuclear-plant-radioactive-water-leaking-months-674434

Botched Gauges Mean Radioactive Water Might Be Leaking From Fukushima

Radioactive, contaminated water may have leaked from the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan into nearby groundwater, report plant officials. The incident has not been confirmed, but is suspected to have occurred because of a fault in well placement.

The wells around the reactors are designed to pump groundwater away from the facility. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plant, said that six wells in the vicinity of the reactors were actually a full three feet below the required safe height to avoid contamination. This means it’s possible that radioactive waste water has been leaking into the soil at those sites.

The mistake was noticed in April 2017 during tests that preceded the digging of a new well, and TEPCO launched a full investigation. The mistake was a result of TEPCO erroneously configuring the gauges in the wells, repeatedly giving them false readings of the groundwater levels at those sites.

TEPCO tested all six questionable sites and found that the groundwater has no elevated levels of radioactivity. A leak is therefore unlikely, according to TEPCO spokesman Shinichi Nakakuki.=

The Fukushima plant suffered a triple meltdown following the devastating 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, killing around 16,000 people. After the meltdown that forced 174,000 people to abandon their homes, further contamination occurred when melted-down nuclear fuel seeped into the groundwater.

The wells are to prevent radioactive water from leaking into the Pacific, but TEPCO has had repeated troubles with managing thousands of tons of contaminated water. Shortly after the meltdown, an underground barrier of frozen soil was built, but in 2016 they revealed that the measure had been ineffective. In July 2013, TEPCO revealed that radioactive water was leaking from the plant into the Pacific Ocean, something they had previously denied. 

TEPCO has been severely criticized by the Japanese government and public for their mishandling of the meltdown and ensuing crisis. In 2016, three of TEPCO’s top executives, including former Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, were indicted on charges of criminal negligence.

They are also the subject of 30 class action lawsuits from displaced and injured residents. The most recent lawsuit was resolved earlier in September, when the company was ordered to pay 376 million yen ($3.36 million) to 42 plaintiffs.

https://sputniknews.com/environment/201709301057827423-radioactive-water-fukushima-well-leak/

Botched gauge settings might have contaminated Fukushima groundwater from April onward: Tepco

The discovery of falsely configured monitoring equipment at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant means the groundwater flowing underneath it might have gotten contaminated from April onward, Tokyo Electric said Friday.

The utility said incorrect gauge settings were used to measure groundwater levels in six of the wells near reactors 1 and 4. This resulted in groundwater readings about 70 cm higher than reality, which means the beleaguered power utility has been mismanaging the groundwater there for months.

To prevent tainted water from leaking from the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. installed water gauges so it could keep the groundwater levels in the wells a meter higher than the contaminated water in the buildings.

Tepco adjusts the amount of water in wells called subdrains around the buildings to keep the groundwater higher than the tainted water inside them, which prevents it from flowing out. If the groundwater levels sink below the level of the radioactive water, it might leak out.

On Friday, Tepco said the estimated groundwater level in one of the six subdrain wells close to reactor 1 fell below the level in the reactor building at least eight times during the five-day period to May 21 because the gauges were set incorrectly.

Groundwater levels were 2 mm to 19 mm lower than the level in the buildings, Tepco said, adding that it does not know precisely how long each of these problematic situations lasted because water level data is collected by the hour.

Tepco said groundwater levels in five other wells affected by the incorrect settings did not fall below the levels in the nearby reactor buildings.

All six are in the area surrounded by an underground ice wall designed to prevent groundwater leakage.

According to Tepco, the incorrect settings date as far back as April 19. The earliest error affected the gauge in a well where groundwater fell to hazardous levels.

In the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the plant experienced core meltdowns and reactors 1, 3 and 4 were severely damaged by hydrogen explosions following a massive offshore earthquake that spawned large tsunami in March 2011.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/29/national/radioactive-water-may-leaking-fukushima-reactor-buildings-since-april-tepco/#.Wc8cghdx3re

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October 3, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima catastrophe ongoing: Leakage on a daily basis’

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There are many shoes still to drop at Fukushima Daiichi, said Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste monitor at Beyond Nuclear. If something goes wrong with the radioactive waste storage pools, there could be a release of high-level radioactivity into the air, he added.

Radiation at Fukushima’s nuclear power plant is at its highest level since the tsunami-triggered meltdown nearly six years ago. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)  is reporting atmospheric readings inside Daiichi’s reactor No.2 are as high as 530 sieverts an hour, while a human exposed to a single dose of 10 sieverts would die in a couple of weeks.

RT: Can you explain what is likely going on here?

Kevin Kamps: This catastrophe that is ongoing is nearly six years old at this point. The fuel, the melted cores have been missing an action. TEPCO doesn’t know where they are; the Japanese government doesn’t know where they are; nobody knows where they are. What could have happened is these probes, these cameras, these robots, these radiation monitors that are being sent in by TEPCO to try to figure out what is going on, may have encountered the closest they have come yet to these melted cores. They may even have come upon melted fuel that is not under water, and water serves as a radiation shielding. So if this is an open area and there is no water – that could explain.

But what you’ve got are melted reactor cores. Of course, human beings can’t be in operating atomic reactors. They also can’t be in this area where there is a meltdown. There is also imagery – it looks like a melt through of a metal grade. It all stands to reason that the cores melted through the reactor pressure vessels and down into the containment structures right through that metal grating.

It is not unexpected, but we still don’t know where the cores are. There are claims that “it’s all contained, don’t worry about it.” It is indisputable that there is a daily flow of radioactively contaminated groundwater into the ocean. The figures something like 80,000 gallons per day of relatively low-level radioactive waste water. Then you’ve got those storage tanks – we’re talking 800,000 tons of highly radioactive water stored in tanks. Every day they pour a hundred tons of water on each of these three melted down cores. Sometimes they lose those tanks. They leak, they overflow – it is an ongoing catastrophe. 

RT: So the contamination, in this case, could leak out, couldn’t it?

KK: There is some leakage on a daily basis. Then they try to capture as much as they can and contain it in the storage tanks, which they sometimes lose, whether during a typhoon or through human error – they have had overflows. So many shoes can still drop at Fukushima Daiichi. One of the ones is the high radioactive waste storage pools that aren’t even inside radiological containment. They don’t have all of that spent nuclear fuel transferred to a safer location in a couple of the units still. If something were to go wrong with that – those would be open air releases of very high-level radioactivity.

The prime minister at the time the catastrophe began, [Naoto] Kan, had a contingency plan to evacuate all of North-East Japan – up to 50 million people. It was predominantly because of those storage pools. We’re still in that predicament- if one of those pools were to go up in flames. As Tokyo plans to host the 2020 Olympics and bring in many millions of extra people into this already densely populated area -it is not a good idea.

RT: Going back to this specific leak: how does this complicate the cleanup efforts there? Is it possible even to get something in there right now to examine what is going on?

KK: State of the art robotic technology – Japan is a leader in robotics – can only last so long, because the electronics get fried by the gamma radiation, and probably neutron radiation that is in there. That is the situation deep in there. They are already saying it will take 40 years to so-called decommission this, but that may be optimistic.

RT: Also in December the government said it is going to take twice as much money – nearly twice as much as they originally thought – to decommission that. Does this make matters ever worse – this leak? Or is this just kind of the situation to expect at this point?

KK: It just shows how dire the situation is. The figures of $150 billion to decommission – I have seen figures from a think tank in Japan sided by Green Peace Japan up to $600 billion. If you do full cost accounting: where is this high-level radioactive waste going to go? It is going to need a deep geological depository. You have to build that and operate it. That costs a hundred billion or more. So when you do full cost accounting, this catastrophe could cost hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from. We’re just in the beginning.

https://www.rt.com/op-edge/376607-leakage-radiation-fukushima-japan/

February 8, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Leaks Unlikely, “presumes” Tepco

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Naohiro Masuda, left, president of Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co., speaks at the podium in a news conference at the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s head office on Nov. 22.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said radioactive water likely did not leak from its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following the morning earthquake that spawned a tsunami on Nov. 22. TEPCO declared that everything was ok at Fukushima Daiichi before even to be able to go inspect the facilities.

TEPCO officials said the company manually shut down equipment that was transferring contaminated water from reactor buildings after the magnitude-7.4 earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. The measure was taken because water being transferred could have spilled out if a pipe in the system was fractured in the quake, and because they would be unable to check the system for leaks.

Naohiro Masuda, president of Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Co., TEPCO’s in-house organization, explained during a news conference at the utility’s head office in Tokyo why the company halted operations of the water transfer facility: “The biggest risk is a tsunami causing contaminated water that has accumulated (in the reactor buildings) to leak and pollute the environment.”

After the Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning at 6:02 a.m., the company ordered workers in lower areas of the plant to evacuate to higher ground. The workers stayed out of the lower areas as the tsunami warning lasted for hours. They have been unable to check for possible leaks around the reactor buildings and the turbine buildings near the sea.

It is a bit inappropriate that we’ve been unable to do so,” Masuda said. “That’s why we suspended the transfer facility. We think that no water will leak now.”

Groundwater mixing with contaminated water in damaged reactor buildings has been a serious problem at the plant since the nuclear disaster unfolded in 2011.

TEPCO also reported that pumps to cool water in the spent nuclear fuel pool at the No. 3 reactor building of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant shut down after the quake. The company said this was an automatic mechanism that kicked in after the water level changed in the tank that adjusts water conditions in the pool. “It is a result of the fact that the automatic suspension device worked normally,” Masuda said. The pumps were later restarted.

In the evening of 11/22/2016, Tepco announced the radiation monitoring post in the sea has been suspended due to the quake. The post is situated at the end of the breakwater of Fukushima plant port. They cannot monitor the radioactive substance spreading to the Pacific with this monitoring post out of order.

TEPCO  declared “everything is safe” soon after the quake. They may have visually confirmed nothing large and significant happened such as a vent tower collapsing or larger building damage,  but they were unable to go in to inspect to actually confirm nothing was damaged, to check for damage in more detail and to check every system now in place at the plant could easily take an entire day.

TEPCO’s prompt claim of no damage after the earthquake at the disaster site, as always was not done after inspections would have confirmed no damage.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611220063.html

http://www.tepco.co.jp/press/mail/2016/1339057_8708.html

November 22, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

Accelerate water-purifying work at Fukushima plant to cut leakage risk

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The volume of contaminated water continues to increase at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Efforts to deal with this problem must be reinforced.

TEPCO has compiled a new set of measures to deal with the radioactive water. The steps are aimed at reducing to nearly zero the contaminated water inside reactor buildings, the prime source of the tainted water.

Under the new measures, the contaminated water accumulated in the basements of reactor buildings is to be purified and then transferred to storage tanks. At the same time, facilities exclusively used for purifying the tainted water are to be doubled, and the existing storage tanks will be replaced with larger ones, increasing the overall storage capacity.

Meanwhile, the volume of groundwater to be pumped up from the wells near the reactor buildings is to be increased. This is aimed at reducing the flow of underground water into the buildings, thus preventing a vicious cycle of generating more tainted water.

If all goes well, the increase in the volume of contaminated water is expected to nearly stop by 2020. We hope TEPCO will realize this goal steadily.

The measures taken so far have centered on the construction of “ice walls,” to prevent groundwater from entering the reactor buildings by freezing the underground soil around the buildings. Because this step has failed to prove effective even more than half a year after the related facilities were put into operation, TEPCO decided to shift its priority measures.

The new measures will require the approval of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Both TEPCO and the NRA must cooperate closely so that the necessary work will not be delayed.

Consider ocean release

The reactor buildings have, in effect, turned into storage facilities for contaminated water. The volume of tainted water totals about 68,000 tons. Although the amount of radioactive material contained in the water has declined markedly when compared to the amount immediately after the nuclear accident occurred, it still remains at a high level.

The large amount of contaminated water inside the reactor buildings carries a risk of radiation exposure, posing a serious impediment to the work to decommission the plant. If highly radioactive water starts leaking underground out of the buildings and into the sea, it will create a serious situation.

Even if new measures proceed smoothly, however, tasks remain. The volume of purified water to be stored in the tanks is expected to nearly double by 2020 to about 1.2 million tons. Not only will this entail a huge maintenance cost, but there is also a danger that the water will leak if the tanks are damaged by an earthquake or other factors.

Releasing purified water that has met the existing safety criteria into the sea must be seriously considered. The discharge of purified water into the ocean has been routinely conducted at nuclear power-related facilities both at home and abroad.

It is important for both the government and TEPCO to do their utmost to explain such a plan in detail in order to win the understanding of local residents concerned. Efforts should also be made to take measures to prevent groundless rumors from adversely affecting the fisheries industry and other sectors.

It is also necessary to continuously ascertain the effect of the ice walls. Although nearly 100 percent of the walls have already been frozen, groundwater is reportedly flowing through thin gaps in the walls. Rainwater seeping through the topsoil has also increased the amount of groundwater inside the buildings.

TEPCO is proceeding with work to fill the gaps in the ice walls. If the work proves effective, the goal of reducing to zero the increase in the contaminated water will be realized two years earlier than envisaged. We hope TEPCO will strenuously work to block the flow of groundwater into the buildings.

http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003279580

October 14, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

“Contaminated rainwater at Fukushima plant repeatedly leaked into sea

FUKUSHIMA — Rainwater containing radioactive contaminants flowed from a drainage ditch by the reactor buildings at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant into the sea on five occasions in just over four months, it has been learned.

The ditch is 2 meters deep and 2 meters wide, and stretches for about 800 meters. It was created to ferry rainwater from the plant grounds into the ocean, but in February this year it was learned that highly contaminated rainwater from the top of the No. 2 reactor building had flowed into the ditch and subsequently into the ocean. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the plant, set up a 70-centimeter-high dam in the ditch, as well as eight pumps to move water from the ditch to another ditch that runs into a sealed harbor area. The pumps, which together can process rainfall of 14 millimeters per hour, were started on April 17 this year.

On April 21, however, loss of power caused by trouble with power generators resulted in all of the pumps shutting down, and contaminated water leaked into the sea. On July 16, rainfall rose to 21 millimeters per hour at one point. This was more than the pumps could handle, and workers confirmed that water flowed into the ocean. In all, five leaks from the ditch occurred in the period between April 17 and Aug. 27.

The concentrations of radioactive cesium and other radioactive materials in the contaminated rainwater ranged from around 20 to 670 times the safety level set for a “subdrain” plan in which decontaminated groundwater is to be released into the ocean.

The volume of leaked rainwater is unknown, but no changes have been seen in radioactive concentrations in the sea near the plant.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government on Aug. 27 issued a new request to TEPCO to introduce leak prevention measures. The next day, TEPCO raised the ditch dam by 15 centimeters, but Naohiro Masuda, chief decommissioning officer at Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Co., says, “Our main countermeasure will be to replace the ditch with a new one.”

This new ditch is designed to carry rainwater into the sealed harbor area. Masuda indicated that until completion of the new ditch — scheduled within the fiscal year — additional leaks may be unavoidable. The plant therefore looks set to enter the typhoon season without full preparations against further leaks.

In February, after the rainwater leaks were discovered, fishermen protested that TEPCO had not released radiation measurements for the drainage ditch water for around 10 months. Negotiations with fishermen over the subdrain plan were subsequently put on hold. However, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations officially agreed to the plan after receiving notification from TEPCO and the national government regarding measures to prevent a recurrence of the leaks.

Regarding the rainwater leaks, federation chairman Tetsu Nozaki commented, “All we can do is to ask TEPCO to improve the situation. The subdrain plan is a separate issue, and there is no change in our acceptance of it.”

Source: Mainichi

http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150829p2a00m0na019000c.html

August 31, 2015 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment