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Mansion without a toilet: Towns in Japan seek to house, store nuclear waste out of necessity

Oct 12, 2020

Two remote towns in northern Japan struggling with rapidly graying and shrinking populations signed up Friday to possibly host a high-level radioactive waste storage site as a means of economic survival.

Japanese utilities have about 16,000 tons of highly radioactive spent fuel rods stored in cooling pools or other interim sites, and there is no final repository for them in Japan — a situation called “a mansion without a toilet.”

Japan is in a dire situation following the virtual failure of an ambitious nuclear fuel recycling plan, in which plutonium extracted from spent fuel was to be used in still-unbuilt fast breeder reactors. The problem of accumulating nuclear waste came to the fore after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster. Finding a community willing to host a radioactive dump site is difficult, even with a raft of financial enticements.

On Friday, Haruo Kataoka, the mayor of Suttsu town on the northwestern coast of Hokkaido, applied in Tokyo for preliminary government research on whether its land would be suitable for highly radioactive waste storage for thousands of years.

Later Friday in Kamoenai just north of Kamoenai, village chief Masayuki Takahashi announced his decision to also apply for an initial feasibility study.

Suttsu, with a population of 2,900, and Kamoenai, with about 800 people, have received annual government subsidies as hosts of the Tomari nuclear power plant. But they are struggling financially because of a declining fishing industry and their aging and shrinking populations.

The preliminary research is the first of three steps in selecting a permanent disposal site, with the whole process estimated to take about two decades. Municipalities can receive up to 2 billion yen ($19 million) in government subsidies for two years by participating in the first stage. Moving on to the next stage would bring in more subsidies.

“I have tried to tackle the problems of declining population, low birth rates and social welfare, but hardly made progress,” Takahashi told reporters. “I hope that accepting research (into the waste storage) can help the village’s development.”

It is unknown whether either place will qualify as a disposal site. Opposition from people across Hokkaido could also hinder the process. A gasoline bomb was thrown into the Suttsu mayor’s home early Thursday, possibly by an opponent of the plan, causing slight damage.

Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki and local fisheries groups are opposed to hosting such a facility.

One mayor in southwestern Japan expressed interest in 2007, but faced massive opposition and the plan was spiked.

High-level radioactive waste must be stored in thick concrete structures at least 300 meters (yards) underground so it won’t affect humans and the environment.

A 2017 land survey map released by the government indicated parts of Suttsu and Kamoenai could be suitable for a final repository.

So far, Finland and Sweden are the only countries that have selected final disposal sites

https://www.firstpost.com/tech/science/mansion-without-a-toilet-towns-in-japan-seek-to-house-store-nuclear-waste-out-of-necessity-8904851.html

October 18, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Eight Years Later: Black Sacks and Lonely Children

As usual no mention whatsoever about the incineration of the radioactive waste by the 20 plus incinerators in activity in Fukushima Prefecture….
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Coastal towns near the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are filled more with sacks of contaminated soil than with children. There are signs that this may be changing, though, as more areas are opened to returnees and new decontamination facilities come online.
I remember how the newsreader Andō Yūko, who visited Fukushima with me in 2014, got angry every time she saw a row of the 1-meter-high black sacks that hold contaminated topsoil.
“I don’t care how many times they say that it’s safe to return. The sight of these enormous sacks in the area completely puts you off.”
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Bags of collected topsoil interrupt the serenity of the Fukushima landscape.
The sacks contain earth and other contaminated material that has been removed during a decontamination process in which topsoil is sheared off. With nowhere to go, the bags, each holding around 1 metric ton of soil, have been either left on site or piled on top of one another in temporary storage areas and covered with green tarpaulins.
Not all of Fukushima Prefecture has high levels of radiation. In fact, radiation levels across the majority of the prefecture are comparable with the rest of Japan. Nonetheless, an extensive area of Fukushima, particularly communities in the northeast, near Fukushima Daiichi, was decontaminated after the accident to allay public concerns. The process has produced an endless stream of black bags, many of which have been simply left at the decontaminated sites.
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A roadside lined with black sacks.
Many people in Fukushima who I interviewed in the past told me that they disliked the ominous bags. And with no decision having been made on how the contaminated soil should ultimately be disposed of, the removal and bagging of soil only served to further increase their number.
Eight years after the accident, however, one does get the feeling that there are fewer sacks lying around. This is partly due to the construction of a medium-term storage facility, where sacks have now begun to be transported.
A Visit to the “Dark Side”
The new facility is being constructed to safely manage and store contaminated soil while it awaits final disposal. The facility straddles the towns of Ōkuma, home to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and Futaba, in an area of the exclusion zone designated uninhabitable due to its particularly high level of radiation.
I went to see one section of the facility under construction in Ōkuma. We drove past houses where the laundry hasn’t been taken in since 2011 and parking lots filled with rusty cars before arriving at a huge pit surrounded by damlike walls.
What used to be an area of houses and fields is now a gigantic concrete-lined containment area for contaminated soil. At the time of my visit in January 2019, a total of 60,000 cubic meters of soil had already been transported to the facility.
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Truckload after truckload of soil is dumped at the site.
This amount is scheduled to reach 4 million cubic meters in fiscal 2019 (ending in March 2020) and to climb as high as 12.5 million cubic meters in fiscal 2020— enough to fill the Tokyo Dome 10 times over.
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The medium-term storage facility stands on what was once woods and farmland. (January 2019, Ministry of the Environment)
While at first glance work appears to be going smoothly, many issues remain. As the “medium-term” in the facility’s name suggests, no decision has been made on where the collected soil will ultimately end up. Nor has any decision been made on how the area would be returned to its original owners when that ultimate solution is agreed upon. The effects are also beginning to be felt by locals, who speak of the noise and traffic jams caused by the constant stream of dump trucks.
My guide from the Ministry of the Environment said apologetically, “There’s a bright side and a dark side to Fukushima. Today, I’ll be showing you the dark side.”
After finishing our tour of the storage facility, the soles of our shoes were meticulously checked to make sure that they had not been contaminated. It was heartbreaking to think that it would be quite some time before this area saw any of Fukushima’s “bright side.”
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Visitors’ shoes are inspected for radiation before they can leave the site.
To read more:

April 8, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Disposal of low-level radioactive waste from Fukushima crisis begins

To call that site a storage site is a misnomer. As there will also be incineration and conditioning of radioactive debris there. It would be more accurate to call it a processing and storage facility….. Temporary storage, supposedly for 30 years maximum….
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FUKUSHIMA – Disposal began Friday of low-level radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than six years after the crisis was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
A disposal site in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, accepted the first shipment of the waste, which contains radioactive cesium ranging from 8,000 to 100,000 becquerels per kilogram, and includes rice straw, sludge and ash from waste incineration.
The Environment Ministry is in charge of the country’s nuclear waste disposal, which totaled 200,000 tons from 11 prefectures as of the end of September. The majority of the waste, 170,000 tons, originates from the prefecture hosting the crippled nuclear power plant.
“I would like to ask the central government to move this project forward while taking adequate safety steps in mind,” a Tomioka official said. “Building mutual trust with local residents is also important.”
Under the ministry’s policy, each prefecture’s waste is to be disposed of. However, Fukushima is the only prefecture where disposal has started, whereas other prefectures have met with opposition from local residents.
In Fukushima, it will take six years to complete moving the stored waste to the disposal site, the ministry said.
The government “will continue giving first priority to securing safety and properly carry out the disposal with our best efforts to win local confidence,” Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa said at a news conference.
The government proposed in December 2013 that Fukushima Prefecture dispose of the waste at the then-privately owned site. The request was accepted by the prefectural government two years later.
To help alleviate local concerns over the disposal, the government nationalized the site and reinforced it to prevent the entry of rainwater.

November 18, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s new environment minister pledges to build trust, contaminated waste storage facility in Fukushima

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Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto speaks during a group interview in Tokyo on Friday.

Newly appointed Environment Minister Koichi Yamamoto said Friday he will further efforts to build trust with people in Fukushima Prefecture to facilitate a stalled project to build a temporary nuclear storage facility.

The 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has contaminated a large part of the prefecture while massive amounts of radioactive waste have been generated by decontamination work.

The government is planning to construct a huge temporary storage site near the Fukushima plant, but needs more than 2,300 landowners to agree to use their property for the project. So far it has only secured about 4.9 percent of the 1,600 hectares of land needed, owned by 234 people.

Although the government says it plans to store the waste for 30 years, no other areas have volunteered to host a final disposal site, leading many local residents to fear that the Fukushima site will end up being permanent.

I’m aware that getting landowners’ consent is a very tough issue,” said Yamamoto, 68, a veteran Liberal Democratic Party lawmaker, during a media interview.

Yamamoto has learned from ministry officials that the situation is improving, and hopes to accelerate the momentum.

Storing contaminated waste at the site is crucial for Fukushima’s reconstruction work, which is currently stalled due to large amounts of waste piling up around the prefecture.

Meanwhile, some landowners are reportedly questioning the government’s commitment on this matter, as environment ministers have already changed four times since Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took office in December 2012.

But Yamamoto said the ministers have handled affairs properly. “This administration has been led by the LDP, so of course we have continuity and even (if) the minister changes (often), we share the same thoughts,” said Yamamoto.

He said 99 percent of the handover information he received from his predecessor, Tamayo Marukawa, was about Fukushima-related issues. “I have to make efforts to go to Fukushima often to make stronger connections than Marukawa did,” he said. Yamamoto plans to visit the temporary storage facility on Tuesday.

The government hopes to begin construction of the temporary storage site in October, the ministry said.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/08/05/national/japans-new-environment-minister-pledges-build-trust-contaminated-waste-storage-facility-fukushima/

August 5, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment