Blog Archive

Saturday, 22 November 2014

After failures, TEPCO to use special cement to prevent contaminated water leaks


November 22, 2014 

The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant plans to fill in trenches on the coastline in yet another attempt to prevent highly contaminated water from pouring into the sea.

Under the plan, approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Nov. 21, Tokyo Electric Power Co. will inject a special cement mixture into the seaside trenches of the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors while pumping up radioactive water accumulating in them.

The special mixture does not absorb water so it can spread more easily along the bottom of the trenches, displacing the tainted water.

The new method will allow radioactive materials to remain in the surrounding soil, but TEPCO decided to employ the technique because it puts high priority on preventing massive amounts of highly contaminated water from leaking into the ocean.

This spring, TEPCO tried to stop the water influx at the trench for the No. 2 reactor by freezing the junction of the turbine building and the trench, but the operation was tough-going.

The company then attempted to stop the water inflow with a cement mixture, but was unable to do so completely.

Source: Asahi Shimbun
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201411220029

TEPCO gives up on freezing tainted water


 
 
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is drastically changing its plan to remove highly radioactive water from underground tunnels at the facility.

The tunnels have been inundated with water from the plant's heavily contaminated reactor buildings.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, this year began work to freeze water at the ends of the tunnels to block the inflow. The firm finished the work early this month.

But TEPCO officials found that water levels in the tunnels were still changing in sync with volumes in the reactor buildings.

The officials admitted to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday that the tunnels hadn't been plugged.

They said they're giving up on the plan, and proposed pouring cement into the flooded tunnels while removing water from them. They said they want this done from late November.

The authority's commissioners asked whether the new method can really halt the inflow. They also spoke of the risk of cracks forming in cement.

The authority approved TEPCO's plan in the end, on condition that the procedure be halted in late December to see whether it's working.

Commenting on the change, one commissioner asked what all the trouble over the past months was for.
 
Source: NHK
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141121_36.html

Tepco fails to halt toxic water inflow at Fukushima No. 1 trenches

Nov 22, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted failure Friday in its bid to halt the flow of toxic water into underground tunnels alongside the ocean at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and said that it will try using a specially developed cement instead.

Some 11,000 tons of highly radioactive water have accumulated in the tunnels, trenches dug to house pipes and cables that are connected to the reactor 2 and 3 turbine buildings of the wrecked facility, according to Tepco.

There are fears that this toxic buildup, which is being caused by the jury-rigged cooling system and groundwater seepage in the reactor basements, could pour into the Pacific, which is already being polluted by other radioactive leaks. Groundwater is entering the complex at 400 tons a day.

Extracting the toxic water is a critical step in Tepco’s plan to build a huge underground ice wall around the four destroyed reactors to keep groundwater out.

Initially, Tepco sought to freeze the water in a section of tunnel connected to the No. 2 reactor building. This was intended to stop the inflow and allow the accumulated water to be pumped out. The utility said it took additional measures that also failed.

On Friday, Tepco proposed a new technique for the tunnels: injection of a cement filler especially developed for the task while pumping out as much of the accumulated water as possible.

Under the new method, however, it would be difficult to drain all of this water and some of it would be left behind, endangering plant workers, Tepco acknowledged.

Nevertheless, a Nuclear Regulation Authority panel of experts green-lighted the new strategy at a recent meeting. Some of the experts argued that Tepco should stick to the original plan and draw out all of the water. Others said giving up on it may hamper the construction of the ice wall.

Source: Japan Times
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/11/22/national/tepco-fails-to-halt-toxic-water-inflow-at-fukushima-no-1-trenches/#.VHDOesm-mKF

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Tepco unable to halt tainted water flowing into tunnels at Fukushima

video

Nov 18, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. appears unable to stem the flow of radioactive water from the No. 2 reactor building to underground tunnels at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, officials said.

Tepco has injected cement into the joints that connect the tunnels, which are used to run cables, and the building to halt the flow of contaminated water and remove accumulations from the tunnels.

But water levels suggest the effort has remained unsuccessful so far, the officials said. The company began the cement injections after failing to create an “ice wall” over the summer by freezing water inside the joints that would have blocked the flows.

After the cement injections, Tepco pumped 200 tons of tainted water out of the tunnels Monday, causing levels inside to fall around 20 cm, the officials said.

However, if the joints were completely sealed, water levels would have fallen roughly 80 cm, the officials said, indicating the possibility that contaminated water is still flowing into the tunnels.

The officials also noted the possibility that groundwater may be flowing into the tunnels. However, recent data has shown that the amount of radioactive materials in the tunnel water was very high, an official in the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

“Concentrations should have been lower if large amounts of groundwater are really flowing in,” the official noted.

If the cement injections end in failure, too, Tepco plans to remove radioactive water while injecting cement into the tunnel — an operation that could put plant workers at greater risk of radiation exposure.

The tunnels are believed to contain some 5,000 tons of tainted water. Some observers believe the water may be leaking into the ground and reaching the Pacific.

Source: Japan Times
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/11/18/national/tepco-unable-halt-tainted-water-flowing-tunnels-fukushima/#.VGuRRMm-mKF



Op-Ed: Fukushima disaster — Ignorance is bliss despite the dangers

The Sendai nuclear power plant will become the first of Japan's 48 commercial reactors to be restarted after they were all shut down since the Fukushima disaster in 2011

By Karen Graham     November 18, 2014

Little is reported in the media about the clean up after the Fukushima Power Plant disaster. After three years of cover-ups and misleading information, released to quell public fears, there is still reason to be wary. The danger is still very real. 

 The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster in 2011 is still impacting lives today. Over 120,000 people from the area are living in a nuclear limbo, according to the guardian. Once close-knit families are now forced to live apart in temporary housing complexes, many of the homes hastily thrown up in an effort to get people out of radiation "hot-spots."

Japan's population has been inundated with half-truths and sometimes, outright lies, concerning the progress being made in the clean-up efforts in Fukushima. For the thousands of workers tasked with the laborious details of doing the actual work, just knowing their efforts are inadequate must be mind-numbing.

Fukushima Daiichi’s manager, Akira Ono is the man in charge of the clean up efforts, and he admitted to the Guardian that there is little cause for optimism. No matter what the workers do, there is still a huge problem with contaminated water. Over 400 tons of groundwater flow every day from the hills outside the plant and into the basements where the three stricken reactors are located.

There, the water mixes with the coolant water being pumped in to keep the melted fuel from overheating and causing another nuclear accident. TEPCO says "most of the water" is pumped out into holding tanks, but ever-increasing amounts end up seeping into maintenance trenches, and then into the ocean. This has to be depressing for Ono and the men and women walking into the facility every day.

While Americans have been sitting back and ignoring the ongoing disaster that is Fukushima, other countries have taken notice. Germany and Italy are looking at the viability of continuing to depend on nuclear power, and are opting instead for other more eco-friendly sources. And surprisingly, the news media in other countries is also paying attention to what has been going on at the Fukushima power plant.

Arnold Gunderson, a former high-level nuclear industry executive, was cited in an article written in Al-Jazeera English, entitled "Fukushima: It's much worse than you think," in June, 2011. In the story, Gunderson is quoted as saying, the Fukushima disaster was "the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind. Twenty nuclear cores have been exposed at Fukushima." Gunderson also points out that the site's many spent-fuel pools give Fukushima 20 times the radiation release potential of Chernobyl.

If people on the North American coast think they are safe from the effects of radiation from the Fukushima disaster, not only are they dreaming, but they are going to be in for a rude awakening. Yes, there were a few stories telling us the radiation levels reaching our west coast were "tiny amounts," But how many additional infants are going to die, and how many more people, children and adults are going to end up with unexplained cancers before someone wakes up to what is happening?

And the American public needs to wake up right now. We have nuclear disasters just waiting to happen in our own back yard. From the Diable Canyon power plant in California, to the Cooper Nuclear Station near Brownville, Nebraska that was almost inundated with floodwaters in June, 2014, the list is getting longer and longer. The Nuclear Regulatory Committee has been forced to ease up on some regulations or just ignore them when it comes to helping power plants in the U.S. to meet what officials call "unnecessarily conservative" standards. Yes, ignorance is bliss. That is scary, folks,

Source: Digital Journal
 http://www.digitaljournal.com/news/environment/op-ed-fukushima-disaster-ignorance-is-bliss-despite-the-dangers/article/415588

Contaminated water swamps Fukushima No. 1 cleanup

The Advanced Liquid Processing System of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is seen Wednesday

Nov 16, 2014 

More than three years into the massive cleanup of the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the wrecked reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.
Instead, nearly all the workers at Fukushima No. 1 are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water, a mixture of groundwater running into recycled water that becomes contaminated and leaks after being pumped into the reactors to keep their melted cores from overheating.
A number of buildings housing water treatment machines and hundreds of huge blue and gray industrial storage tanks to store the excess water are rapidly taking over the grounds at the plant, which saw three of its six reactor cores suffer meltdowns from the 3/11 quake and tsunami. Workers were still building more tanks during a visit to the complex Wednesday by a group of foreign media.
“The contaminated water is a most pressing issue that we must tackle. There is no doubt about that,” said Akira Ono, head of the plant. “Our effort to mitigate the problem is at its peak now. Though I cannot say exactly when, I hope things start getting better when the measures start taking effect.”
The numbers tell the story:

6,000 workers

Every day, about 6,000 workers pass through the guarded gate of Fukushima No. 1, located on the Pacific coast, two to three times more than when it was actually generating electricity.
On a recent workday, about 100 workers were dismantling a makeshift roof over one of the reactor buildings, while about a dozen others were removing fuel rods from a cooling pool. Most of the rest were dealing with contaminated water-related work, said Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, a spokesman for plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
The work threatens to exhaust the supply of workers for other tasks, since they must stop working when they reach annual radiation exposure limits. Experts say it is crucial to reduce the amount and radioactivity of the contaminated water to decrease the risk of exposure to workers and the environmental impact before the decommissioning work gets closer to the highly contaminated core area.

40 years

The plant has six reactors, three of which were offline when disaster struck on March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that triggered huge tsunami that swept into the plant and knocked out its backup power and cooling systems, leading to core meltdowns in the three active reactors.
Decommissioning and dismantling all six of the reactors is a delicate, time-consuming process that includes removing the melted fuel from a highly radioactive environment as well as all the extra fuel rods, which sit in cooling pools situated at the top of the reactor buildings.
The entire job still requires finding out the exact conditions of the melted fuel debris and developing remote-controlled and radiation-resistant robotics to deal with them, and the work is expected to take at least 40 years.

500,000 tons

The main problem is an abundant inflow of groundwater into the contaminated water that doubles the volume and spreads it to vast areas of the compound. Workers have jury-rigged a pipe-and-hose system to continuously pump water into the reactors to cool the clumps of melted fuel inside.
The water becomes contaminated upon exposure to the radioactive fuel, and much of it pours into the reactor and turbine basements, and maintenance trenches that extend to the Pacific Ocean. The plant recycles some of the contaminated water as cooling water after partially treating it, but groundwater is also flowing into the damaged reactor buildings and mixing with contaminated water, creating a huge excess that needs to be pumped out.
So far, more than 500,000 tons of radioactive water have been stored in nearly 1,000 large tanks that workers have built, which now cover most of the sprawling plant premises. After a series of leaks from the storage tanks last year, they are now being replaced with costlier welded tanks.
That dwarfs the 9,000 tons of contaminated water produced during the 1979 partial meltdown at Three Mile Island in the United States. In that incident, it took 14 years for the water to evaporate, said Lake Barrett, a retired U.S. nuclear regulatory official who was part of the early mitigation team there and has visited Fukushima No. 1.
“This is a much more complex, much more difficult water management problem,” Barrett said.

¥10 trillion

An estimated ¥2 trillion will be needed just for decontamination and other mitigation of the water problem. Altogether, the entire decommissioning process, including compensation for area residents, reportedly will cost about ¥10 trillion.
All this for a plant that will never produce a kilowatt of energy again.
The work threatens to exhaust the supply of workers for other tasks, since they must stop working when they reach annual radiation exposure limits. About 500 workers are digging deep holes in preparation to build a taxpayer-funded ¥32 billion underground “frozen wall” around the four reactors and their turbine buildings to try to keep the contaminated water from seeping out.
Tepco is developing systems to try to remove most radioactive elements from the water. One, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), has been trouble-plagued, but utility officials hope to achieve a daily capacity of 2,000 tons when it enters full operation next month. Officials hope to be able to treat all contaminated water by the end of March, but that is far from certain.

Source: Japan Times
 http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/11/16/national/contaminated-water-swamps-fukushima-no-1-cleanup/#.VGtay8m-mKF

Friday, 14 November 2014

Nuclear evacuees seek rise in TEPCO compensation

video

Nov 14 2014
More than 2,800 evacuees from a village near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are seeking state arbitration for a rise in compensation from Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant's operator.

Iitate Village is still an evacuation zone three years and eight months after the nuclear accident at the power plant. But decontamination work is proceeding across the village, which is located about 40 kilometers from the plant.

About half the village's population, or 2,837 evacuees, filed for arbitration with the Center for Settlement of Fukushima Nuclear Damage Claims on Friday.

They say their prolonged evacuation is splitting local communities and families and threatening generations of the village's history.

The evacuees are seeking increased compensation and an apology from TEPCO. They want the current monthly evacuation compensation per capita more than tripled to 350,000 yen, or roughly 3,000 dollars per month. They also call for around 172,000 dollars per evacuee in compensation for ruining their village lives.

The representative of the evacuees, Kenichi Hasegawa, explained why they filed for the class-action arbitration. He said the evacuees decided they must express their anger as their lives have not improved since the nuclear accident. He added that the evacuees want their village lives back.

TEPCO said in a statement it has yet to learn the details of the documents. But the company pledges a sincere response to the arbitration in line with settlement procedures

Source: NHK

Download Radioactive water may still be entering tunnels

video

Nov 13 2014
The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant faces another challenge in its effort to address radioactive water at the complex.

It says highly contaminated water may still be flowing from reactor buildings into adjacent underground tunnels even after a work to stem the flow ended.

The water in the tunnels is believed to be leaking into the sea. Tokyo Electric Power Company plans to pump the tainted water out of the tunnels and fill them with cement.

To prepare for the process, the firm began work in April to stem the flow of radioactive water between the reactor buildings and the tunnels. It involved freezing some of the water as well as plugging the gaps with filler materials.

TEPCO finished the work on November 6th. But workers found that water levels in the reactor buildings and the tunnels are still linked. They note this suggests that the flow of radioactive water between them may not have been stopped.

TEPCO officials say that if the situation doesn't improve, they may start filling the tunnels with cement even before they finish removing contaminated water.

Source: NHK
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141114_05.html

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Study: Fukushima health risks underestimated

A Greenpeace radiation monitoring team checks contamination in Fukushima City 

13 Nov 2014 
Tokyo, Japan - "Hot spots" of nuclear radiation still contaminate parts of Fukushima Prefecture, according to findings from the latest Greenpeace radiation monitoring mission near the Daiichi nuclear power plant that experienced a melt down after an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Experts from the environmental organisation also claim that authorities have consistently underestimated the amount of contamination and the health risks involved.
Greenpeace will use these results to try to persuade local governments with nuclear power plants in their districts to resist lobbying from the central government to have them reactivated. All 50 of Japan's remaining nuclear plants were shut down following the 2011 disaster. 
Greenpeace began independently monitoring radiation in Fukushima within a few days of the nuclear accident, and it has conducted field trips each year since then. The latest such trip took place from October 24-27.
Heinz Smitai, a nuclear physicist, Greenpeace campaigner and participant in the radiation monitoring mission, told foreign journalists at an October 30 press conference in Tokyo that radiation hot spots exist as far as 60 kilometres from the site of the disaster.
For instance, one street in front of a hospital in Fukushima City "is quite contaminated", Smitai said, measuring 1.1 microsieverts of radiation per hour. Although this was one of the highest readings, Greenpeace found 70 other places in the city where the amount of radiation recorded exceeded the Ministry of Environment's long-term target of 0.23 microsieverts per hour.
A sievert is the standard unit for measuring the risk of radiation absorbed by the body. A millisievert is equal to one-thousandth of a sievert, while a microsievert is one-millionth of a sievert. A typical CT scan can deliver from 2 to 10 millisieverts of radiation, depending on the area being scanned.
Source: Al Jazeera
http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/11/will-japan-reopen-nuclear-plants-fukushima-20141111112653560643.html

 

Nuclear cleanup at Fukushima plant stymied by water woes

 Tanks storing contaminated water are seen at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant 
in Fukushima Prefecture on Nov. 12.

November 13, 2014

OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture--More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.
Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are devoted to an enormously distracting problem: a still-growing amount of contaminated water used to keep the damaged reactors from overheating. The amount has been swelled further by groundwater entering the reactor buildings.
Hundreds of huge blue and gray tanks to store the radioactive water, and buildings holding water treatment equipment are rapidly taking over the plant, where the cores of three reactors melted following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Workers were building more tanks during a visit to the complex on Nov. 12 by foreign media, including The Associated Press.
"The contaminated water is a most pressing issue that we must tackle. There is no doubt about that," said Akira Ono, head of the plant. "Our effort to mitigate the problem is at its peak now. Though I cannot say exactly when, I hope things start getting better when the measures start taking effect."
The numbers tell the story.


6,000 WORKERS

Every day, about 6,000 workers pass through the guarded gate of the Fukushima No. 1 plant on the Pacific coast--two to three times more than when it was actually producing electricity.
On a recent work day, about 100 workers were dismantling a makeshift roof over one of the reactor buildings, and about a dozen others were removing fuel rods from a cooling pool. Most of the rest were dealing with the contaminated water, said Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that owns the plant.
The work threatens to exhaust the supply of workers for other tasks, since employees must stop working when they reach annual radiation exposure limits. Experts say it is crucial to reduce the amount and radioactivity of the contaminated water to decrease the risk of exposure to workers and the environmental impact before the decommissioning work gets closer to the highly contaminated core areas.

 
40 YEARS

The plant has six reactors, three of which were offline when disaster struck on March 11, 2011. A magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami which swept into the plant and knocked out its backup power and cooling systems, leading to meltdowns at the three active reactors.
Decommissioning and dismantling all six reactors is a delicate, time-consuming process that includes removing the melted fuel from a highly radioactive environment, as well as all the extra fuel rods, which sit in cooling pools at the top of the reactor buildings. Workers must determine the exact condition of the melted fuel debris and develop remote-controlled and radiation-resistant robotics to deal with it.
Troubles and delays in preparatory stages, including the water problem and additional measures needed to address environmental and health concerns in removing highly radioactive debris from atop reactor buildings that exploded during meltdowns, have pushed back schedules on the decommissioning roadmap. Recently, officials said the government and TEPCO plan to delay the planned start of fuel removal from Units 1 and 2 by about 5 years.
The process of decommissioning the four reactors is expected to take at least 40 years.

 
500,000 TONS

The flow of underground water is doubling the amount of contaminated water and spreading it to vast areas of the compound.
Exposure to the radioactive fuel contaminates the water used to cool the melted fuel from inside, and much of it leaks and pours into the basements of the reactors and turbines, and into maintenance trenches that extend to the Pacific Ocean. Plans to freeze some of the most toxic water inside the trench near the reactors have been delayed for at least 8 months due to technical challenges.
The plant reuses some of the contaminated water for cooling after partially treating it, but the additional groundwater creates a huge excess that must be pumped out.
Currently, more than 500,000 tons of radioactive water is being stored in nearly 1,000 large tanks which now cover large areas of the sprawling plant. After a series of leaks last year, the tanks are being replaced with costlier welded ones.
That amount dwarfs the 9,000 tons of contaminated water produced during the 1979 partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States. At Three Mile Island, it took 14 years for the water to evaporate, said Lake Barrett, a retired U.S. nuclear regulatory official who was part of the early mitigation team there and has visited the Fukushima plant.
"This is a much more complex, much more difficult water management problem," Barrett said.

 
10 TRILLION YEN

An estimated 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) will be needed just for decontamination and other mitigation of the water problem. Altogether, the entire decommissioning process, including compensation for area residents, reportedly will cost about 10 trillion yen, or about $90 billion.
All this for a plant that will never produce a kilowatt of energy again.
About 500 workers are digging deep holes in preparation for a taxpayer-funded 32 billion yen ($290 million) underground "frozen wall" around four reactors and their turbine buildings to try to keep the contaminated water from seeping out.
TEPCO is developing systems to try to remove most radioactive elements from the water. One, known as ALPS, has been trouble-plagued, but utility officials hope to achieve its daily capacity of 2,000 tons when they enter full operation next month following a final inspection by regulators.
Officials hope to treat all contaminated water by the end of March, but that is far from certain.

Source: Asahi Shimbun
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201411130092