Storage tanks for radioactive water are seen at Tokyo Electric Power Co's (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. Photo: REUTERS
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Japan to resume effort to tackle contaminated water problem at Fukushima

45 Comments

Japan is resuming efforts to disperse a build-up of contaminated water at Tokyo Electric Power's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant that is stalling progress on cleaning up the site, the government said on Thursday.

A panel of experts will meet on Friday for the first time in eight months to consider options to get rid of the water, Japan's government said in briefing documents it released.

The panel will consider strategies such as evaporation of the water and injection deep underground, in addition to a recommendation by Japan's nuclear regulator to release the treated water into the ocean, a more conventional technique.

Regular meetings of the panel had stopped nearly three months after Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) admitted it had not managed to completely remove potentially dangerous radioactive particles from treated water held in tanks.

The admission had been a setback for the company and the government, as the water hampered clean-up of the site where three reactors melted down after an earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

In 2016, the Japanese government estimated that the total cost of plant dismantling, decontamination of affected areas, and compensation, would be 21.5 trillion yen ($203 billion), or about a fifth of the country's annual budget.

Tokyo won the bid to host the 2020 Summer Olympics around six years ago, with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declaring that Fukushima was "under control" in his final pitch to the International Olympic Committee.

At nuclear sites around the world, contaminated water is treated to remove all radioactive particles except tritium, a relatively harmless isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water and released into the environment.

But because of missteps such as last year's admission that it had not removed everything except tritium from the tanks, TEPCO faces difficulties winning the trust of regional fisherman who oppose the water's release into the ocean.

Some countries, including South Korea, still have restrictions on produce from areas around the Fukushima site.

TEPCO has completed replacement of older tanks that had experienced leaks with stronger ones, the government said.

It is expected to run out of tank space by mid-2022, the government added, adding to the urgency to resolve the problem.

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2019.

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

45 Comments
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Regular meetings of the panel had stopped nearly three months after Tokyo Electric (TEPCO) admitted it had not managed to completely remove potentially dangerous radioactive particles from treated water held in tanks.

So what else is new?

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Isn't this supposed to be "Under control"?

Jp govt is AnBElievable.

13 ( +15 / -2 )

A panel of experts will meet on Friday for the first time in eight months to consider options to get rid of the water, Japan's government said in briefing documents it released.

I think this should state, “A panel of bureaucrats will decide on the best way to sway public opinion as they decide on the cheapest and easiest way to dump this water into the pacific.”

12 ( +14 / -2 )

They've been doing nothing for 8 months?! What a shocker. Wake me when there's actual news.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Been doing nothing since the start...

7 ( +8 / -1 )

How about giving each visitor to the Olympics a free bottle of Eau de Fukushima to take home as a souvenir? They'd probably shift the lot then!

7 ( +9 / -2 )

A panel of experts

Zeus help us all!!!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Japan is resuming efforts to disperse a build-up of contaminated water at Tokyo Electric Power's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant

Why would they have stopped? Especially given that they tried to get people to move back.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This is the way of the future folks clean power aren't you happy you don't have any dirty coal pkants

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

And so with news like this, exactly how was Olympic softball and baseball supposed to reinvigorate the Tohoku area? What happened to the news about the leaking tanks? That coverage kind of "evaporated" in a few months...

3 ( +4 / -1 )

But because of missteps such as last year's admission that it had not removed everything except tritium from the tanks, 

Misstep? Nah. The word you're looking for is duplicity

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The tanks were replaced by newer ones, sorry, saw that after I posted. Hope they are typhoon and earthquake proof.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Like I said shortly after 2011, this water WILL end up back in the ocean, either by the hand of man or mother nature, only time will tell which it is!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Nuclear physicists of the world are responsible to come up with a solution for this problem. Until then, Nobel Prize will not be given to them.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Have a nuclear village with water for plants, homes, schools, and swimming pools is from the nastiest of the tanks, for the families of the politicians and engineers and managers who put us in this Faustian Bargain.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

It will all be dumped into the sea for sure, by intention or by tsunami. Nobody wants to deal with it.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

GW

Sorry, I see I basically repeated your post.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

"A panel of experts will meet on Friday for the first time in eight months to consider options to get rid of the water"

Seriously? It's been 8 years since the disaster, and we're still working at a snail's pace to "consider options"?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

You are busy about this coming Olympics.. How about us the evacuees.. You are not doing your obligation to pay us the compensation.. Ashamed on you !

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Certain type of crowd always gets drawn to this type of articles with something bias or negative to say.

-10 ( +1 / -11 )

Dear Japanese government

This problem can not be manipulated with hiding!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

"Japan is resuming efforts ......"

Japan? Or are they talking about TEPCO and the other "gang"?

8 months sitting at their desks and nothing's been done. Now what's up with that?

And agreed, the water will magically disappear sooner or later.

Remember, Olympics coming up in a little more than 300 days.

Don't want the world to see what Fukushima really looks like!

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Before you proceed anything else you have to finished your obligation to pay us evacuees the compensation!Fulfill your pledges to us evacuees... Tepco!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

A panel of experts will meet on Friday for the first time in eight months

I wish I could not turn up for work for 8 months and still get paid. Like everything the Japanese bureaucracy gets its snout into, nothing happens for as long as they can milk our tax money for, then it's regrettable that the cheapest option costs way over the market price, and all the amakudari get a slice.

And we have to swallow a tax hike because there's no money.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

It is interesting that 'getting rid of'.... indeed all the solutions are a 'getting rid of': dispersion into the sea (as suggested by somebody they could bottle it and give one of them to each Olympic visitor), injecting it into the soil (I wonder where it goes, when it does not become a tritium enriched onsen), vaporizing it (because radiations and chemicals do not fly with steam, right?). These guys are so bright...

1 ( +3 / -2 )

So, they stopped for a while? I thought it was all under control, as they stated both immediately after the disaster and then when they bilked the disasters for the Olympics.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

At nuclear sites around the world, contaminated water is treated to remove all radioactive particles except tritium, a relatively harmless isotope of hydrogen hard to separate from water and released into the environment.

So what’s the problem? Canada has three CANDU plants that release this stuff straight into Lake Ontario.

Another empty contents that doesn’t math the headline.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Options? 1. Evaporation: contaminate the air we breathe. 2. Deep in the ground: Contaminate the earth we use to grow our crops. 3. Dump in the Pacific ocean: Contaminate another source of food and risk changing the Eco system of the ocean. Perhaps ocean warming?

Who said Nuclear Energy is save, cheap and clean?

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Nuclear-contaminated ground water keeps welling up and flowing, and they are to keep installing rows and rows of containers like those seen in the picture. But will they be able to contain the water flowing? And when? Nobody knows

Some critics say building nuclear power plants is like building houses equipped with no sewage systems, for with today's technology there's no way to dispose of nuclear waste. How would the poor house owners deal with the sewage?.

The bottom line: Japan must scrap its energy policy of too much dependence on nuclear power plants .

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The tritium is bonded to the hydrogen atom and can't be separated. All water released from a nuclear power plant contains tritium but the amount of the release is much smaller than the amount of water built up at the nuclear disaster site due to the constant flooding the reactor basements.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/chemistry/tritium-atom

"High levels of tritium were released into the environment from nuclear weapons testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Prior to the tests, it is estimated only 3 to 4 kilograms of tritium was present on the Earth's surface. After testing, the levels rose 200-300%. Much of this tritium combined with oxygen to form tritiated water. One interesting consequence is that the tritiated water could be traced and used as a tool to monitor the hydrologic cycle and to map ocean currents."

https://www.thoughtco.com/facts-about-tritium-607915

So – let’s recap a little bit.

"First, tritium is a form of hydrogen that is chemically identical to any other form of hydrogen, it just has a few extra neutrons added to it."

"Second, tritium is produced in nuclear reactors, and also in nature. Our planet always has tritium in the environment – the tritium in the Fukushima water is about 0.03% of the tritium found in nature."

"Third, if the Japanese government does dump all of this into the environment it will probably increase tritium concentrations in the water – and probably in the organisms living in that water. But this will pass as the water mixes in with the ocean water and it will almost certainly have no long-lasting environmental impact."

"Finally, tritiated water mixes in with all of our body fluids and it passes out of our bodies in the same way as the water we might have drunk after working out. To speed up this normal changeover, simply drink more fluids."

http://www.ntanet.net/should-i-be-concerned-about-japan-dumping-tritium-from-fukushima-plant

TEPCO made a PR mistake the way it communicated to the public over the tritium water, especially with the Fukushima fishermen who oppose and release of the water.

In 2016, the Japanese government estimated that the total cost of plant dismantling, decontamination of affected areas, and compensation, would be 21.5 trillion yen ($203 billion), or about a fifth of the country's annual budget.

The government and even some returned posters stated a few years back that the maximum cost would not be more than ¥5 trillion. The current costs have exceeds that 4-5 times and in the end the cost will be nearer to ¥100 trillion.

Then there are very large costs to increase the safety of the reactors to meet the new NRA regulations or to decommission those that are not worth upgrading reducing the previous fleet of reactors from 54 (including the 10 located in Fukushima) down to about 20 possible reactors.

The amounts of water will just go on building up. 1 million tons after 8 years. How much after 50 years?

The storage tanks are not built to last forever.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The water with the tritium becomes heavier than the water without it which floats on top. To remove by distillation would be difficult and expensive. Natural evaporation very slow.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Like saying....

"The car crash is uner control"....

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zichi

You are very knowledgeable. The article says tritium is relatively harmless while the other radioactive materials can be processed or neutralized and become harmless?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tritium Releases and Dose Consequences in Canada in 2006

https://www.nrc.gov/docs/ML1029/ML102990113.pdf

A normal operating nuclear power plant does release tritium in smaller quantities. The nuclear disaster site isn't a normal operating nuclear power plant. It's a highly dangerous site and will remain so for many decades to come.

TEPCO have decided to remove in part the ventilation stack for the No1 & No2 reactors. The structure was damaged by the explosions and the top part is in danger of collapse. TEPCO had to release highly radioactive gas from the reactors to prevent them from exploding.

This contaminated the stack with dangerous levels of radiation. The stack is 120m high and the top 60m will be removed using remote control equipment.

In 2011, the radiation level at the base of the stack was 10 SIEVERT per hour. Would kill a person very quickly.

In 2015, the radiation level was 2 SIEVERT per hour, still too high for any worker.

I believe the current level might be 400 millisievert per hour. Still too high for any worker to be there.

vanityofvanities

"Zichi

You are very knowledgeable."

Please I'm no expert on nuclear disaster plants but I'm a former engineer and instead of just accepting what TEPCO states, or hearsay, or gossip, or conspiracy theories I go and read up and try to learn something useful to myself and others who are serious about the real problems and the solutions.

The article says tritium is relatively harmless while the other radioactive materials can be processed or neutralized and become harmless?

Tritium is present in many places including the upper atmosphere because of the ease of bonding with hydrogen. It's also present on the ground and in the rivers, oceans, sea.

TEPCO can remove all the radioactive particles from the waste water except for the tritium because of the sort of super glue bonding with the the hydrogen. It could try to reduce the waste water volume by removing the water without the tritium. But will still have the problem of the tritium.

All nuclear power stations release tritium during the cooling cycle of the cooling water. In to seas, rivers and lakes. But those levels are small.

To release all the water from Fukushima? Can the ocean absorb that without long term damage, or any damage for that matter. Some experts say yes, some say no.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zichi,

Thanks for the info.

First time we came to a happy mediums with this issue.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But because of missteps such as last year's admission that it had not removed everything except tritium from the tanks

Wait - they removed the harmless, but difficult-to-remove stuff, and left all the deadly stuff in there?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Zichi

Thank you very much. We want deep knowledge.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Derek Grebe

Wait - they removed the harmless, but difficult-to-remove stuff, and left all the deadly stuff in there?

Yes TEPCO build a plant to remove all the radionuclide from the collected waste water from the reactor basements.

The contaminated water is pumped out and passed through a filtration device called the Advanced Liquid Processing System — which is supposed to remove every radionuclide except for tritium — and stored in the tanks.

There are underground rivers off the mountains which was reaching the basements and becoming contaminated. TEPCO built wells to pump out some of the water from reaching the site and also built the frozen wall around the reactor buildings.

It reduced the amounts of water reaching the basements but not stopping it all together. The damaged reactors 1-3 also need constant water cooling and the containment vessels are also cracked and damaged so the cooling water leaks out and fills up the basements.

The extracted waste water is treated and the radionuclide removed except for the Tritium one which is impossible/very difficult to remove because of the super glue bonding between the Tritium and the hydrogen in the water.

Tritiated Water Task Force Report

https://www.meti.go.jp/english/earthquake/nuclear/decommissioning/pdf/20160915_01a.pdf

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It should be clear by now that Tepco can't be trusted on their mediocre performance in dealing with the fukushima incident.

Time to get independent unbiased people taking over the site and operations.

Tepco's role should only be limited to financing the debacle.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Jamc

It should be clear by now that Tepco can't be trusted on their mediocre performance in dealing with the fukushima incident.

I am anti TEPCO fully hold them responsible for the nuclear disaster. The ex chairman and several of the previous directors have be charged with criminal actions and are currently facing trail in Tokyo.

TEPCO have made remarkable progress in dealing with a world first nuclear disaster which has no previous answers or solutions.

They are owner and cause of the disaster but are not alone when it comes to dealing with it. In Tokyo there is a large team of international experts working on the problems. TEPCO can not do anything without permission from the NRA and government.

Time to get independent unbiased people taking over the site and operations. 

TEPCO is being helped by the nuclear divisions of Toshiba and Hitachi.

TEPCO role should only be limited to financing the debacle.

The liability of TEPCO is limited by the Nuclear Liabity Law which limits the total to be paid by TEPCO at 120 billion yen, which is just a drop in the ocean of the final costs

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Probably dump it into the ocean the day after closing ceremonies

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Open them up for both evaporation and some limited release.

One third, one third, one third. Keep the bottom one third with the sludge in the meantime.

Tepco’s new motto?

“We release what we can,

And can what we can’t.”

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Probably dump it into the ocean the day after closing ceremonies

Haha! Maybe they can do it 'The Great Escape' style and shake it out of their trousers on the exercise yard.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

keyword: resume.

I had no idea they'd actually stopped in the first place. Any chance they'll stop again as soon as the Olympics are over?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Do you remember those films back in the 50's we was lead to believe that Nuclear power was "cheap and safe!" oooooh, dear me, how so wrong were they!!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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