Tag Archives: Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO)

When the End is not Near: Fukushima 2017

 black lumps on wire-mesh grating found at Fukushima, Jan 30, 2017

Hopes have been raised for a breakthrough in the decommissioning of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after its operator said it may have discovered melted fuel beneath a reactor, almost six years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown.  Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said on January 30, 2017 that a remote camera appeared to have found the debris beneath the badly damaged No 2 reactor, where radiation levels remain dangerously high. Locating the fuel is the first step towards removing it.  If Tepco can confirm that the black mass comprises melted fuel, it would represent a significant breakthrough in a recovery effort that has been hit by mishaps, the buildup of huge quantities of contaminated water, and soaring costs….Using a remotely controlled camera attached to the end of a 10.5-metre-long telescopic arm, Tepco technicians located black lumps on wire-mesh grating just below the reactor’s pressure vessel, local media reported.

The company plans to send a scorpion-like robot equipped with cameras, radiation measuring equipment and a temperature gauge into the No 2 reactor containment vessel….Three previous attempts to use robots to locate melted fuel inside the same reactor ended in failure when the devices were rendered useless by radiation.

The delicate, potentially dangerous task of decommissioning the plant has barely begun, however.Japanese media said that plans to remove spent fuel from the No 3 reactor building had been delayed, while decommissioning the entire plant was expected to take at least 40 years.  In December 2016, the government said the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and decontaminating the surrounding area, as well as paying compensation and storing radioactive waste, had risen to 21.5 trillion yen ($187bn), nearly double an estimate released in 2013.

Excerpts Possible nuclear fuel find raises hopes of Fukushima plant breakthrough, Guardian, Jan. 30, 2017

Nothing Outlasts the Fukushima Disaster: it keeps going and going….

energizer

As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moves to reopen Japanese nuclear plants that were all shut after the disaster on March 11, 2011, a distrustful public is pushing back. A court on March 9, 2016ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt two of the four reactors that have been restarted, saying the utility had failed to show the public they were safe. The utility called the ruling “unacceptable” and said it would appeal….However, near the ruined Fukushima reactors……Growing swaths of land are covered with black bags full of slightly radioactive soil.

The hardest parts of the cleanup haven’t even begun. Tepco, as Tokyo Electric is known, has yet to draw up plans for removing highly radioactive nuclear fuel that melted through steel containment vessels and now sits at the bottom of three Fukushima reactors.The company estimates that the nearly $20 billion job of decommissioning the plant could take another three or four decades. That is not counting damages and cleanup costs expected to reach some $100 billion or more, including about $50 billion paid to evacuees. Legal wrangling over the disaster continues. In February 2016, three former Tepco executives were charged with professional negligence.

Tepco also is working to reduce a total 400 tons of rain and groundwater that breach the plant’s defenses daily, becoming contaminated and requiring treatment and storage. But a wall of frozen earth meant to reduce the flow has run into resistance from regulators.On large parts of the site, workers can now walk around without full-face shields or hazmat suits, using simple surgical masks for protection.Fukushima was once a prized post for elite engineers and technicians in Japan’s nuclear heyday. Now, unskilled laborers make up the bulk of a workforce of about 6,000 workers, down from a peak of 7,450 in 2014. “There’s a constant stream of people who can’t find work elsewhere,” said Hiroyuki Watanabe, a Communist city councilman in Iwaki, about 30 miles away. “They drift and collect in Fukushima.”…

Looking ahead, the biggest issue remains the reactors. No one knows exactly where the molten nuclear debris sits or how to clean it. Humans couldn’t survive a journey inside the containment vessels, so Tepco hopes to use robots guided by computer simulations and video images. But two attempts had to be abandoned after the robots got tripped up on rubble.“The nature of debris may depend on when the nuclear fuel and concrete reacted,” said Pascal Piluso, an official of France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. “We are talking about extremely varied and complex debris.”….A government panel recently questioned Tepco’s ability to tackle the daunting task of decommissioning while seeking profit for its shareholders. The disaster nearly pushed the company to bankruptcy, prompting the government to buoy it with ¥1 trillion ($9 billion  (really????) in public money and pledge government grants and guarantees to help Tepco compensate victims.”…

Excerpts  from Fukushima Still Rattles Japan, Five Years After Nuclear Disaster, Wall Street Journal, Mar. 8, 2016

Who dares? population resettlement at Fukushima

Micrograph of thyroid cancer. image from wikipedia

By the time Fukushima prefecture finishes the task of decontaminating houses and farmland around the Dai-ichi plant, it will have spent an estimated $50 billion on the work.  Some argue it would have been wiser to have spent the money on resettling former residents elsewhere. Already many of the 80,000 or so people displaced from the areas around the plant have begun new lives. Those moving back are mainly elderly. Local officials expect that half of the evacuees, especially those with children who are more vulnerable to radiation, may never return.

Fear of radiation, and distrust of data from the government and from the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the Dai-ichi operator, on the risk it poses, are the biggest reasons. On October 20th, 2015 it was announced that a worker who had helped to contain the accident had developed cancer linked to the meltdown. It was the first such diagnosis, but a recent medical study found a huge leap in cases of thyroid cancer among children and adolescents in Fukushima prefecture since the catastrophe.

Public faith in Japan’s institutions suffered a severe blow as a result of the government’s bungled response to the accident in 2011. So when officials of Tamura city wanted to open the Miyakoji district in 2013, residents resisted and demanded more decontamination work.

A year after the lifting of the evacuation order on his village, Yuko Endo, the mayor of Kawauchi, says distrust is so widespread that he doubts his community will return even near to its former size. But he has visited the area around Chernobyl in Ukraine, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster 29 years ago. He says the sight there of abandoned villages resembling graveyards has stiffened his resolve to rebuild. Those who have now returned are still deeply sceptical about the assurances they receive. Many ask why, for instance, if the soil is safe, they must take their locally grown produce to be checked for radiation.

There is a particular ray of hope in Naraha—more of one than is evident in Miyakoji and Kawauchi. The town will benefit from jobs related to the decommissioning of the nearby nuclear plants, including Dai-ni, which got through the earthquake and tsunami relatively unscathed. Another of Naraha’s immediate projects is to erect new streetlights. It will be helped by dollops of government aid. Mr Matsumoto, the mayor, talks of luring people back by making his town much more attractive than it was before. But for now, many streetlights do not even work. It is dark at night and the atmosphere is eerie.

Nuclear Power in Japan: Back to the Nuclear zone, Economist, Oct. 24, 2015, at 39

How to Release Radioactive Waste to the Pacific Ocean: IAEA on Fukushima

storage tanks for nuclear water Fukushima

From the Report of the IAEA regarding  Radioactive Water at Fukushima:  While the IAEA is recognizing the usefulness of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by TEPCO for decontaminating and thereby ensuring highly radioactive water accumulated at the site is not inappropriately released to the environment including the adjacent Pacific Ocean, the IAEA team also notes that currently not all of these systems are operating to their full design capacity and performance. ….The IAEA team is of the opinion that the present plan to store the treated contaminated water containing tritium in above ground tanks, with a capacity of 800,000 m 3 , is at best a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed. Therefore the present IAEA team reiterates the advisory point of the previous decommissioning mission: “The IAEA team believes it is necessary to find a sustainable solution to the problem of managing contaminated water at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi NPS. This would require considering all options, including the possible resumption of controlled discharges to the sea. TEPCO is advised to perform an assessment of the potential radiological impact to the population and the environment arising from the release of water containing tritium and any other residual radionuclides to the sea in order to evaluate the radiological significance and to have a good scientific basis for taking decisions. It is clear that final decision making will require engaging all stakeholders, including TEPCO, the NRA, the National Government, Fukushima Prefecture Government, local communities and others”.

From the IAEA report Released on May 14, 2015 MISSION REPORT IAEA INTERNATIONAL PEER REVIEW MISSION ON MID-AND-LONG-TERM ROADMAP TOWARDS THE DECOMMISSIONING OF TEPCO’S FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER STATION UNITS 1-4 (Third Mission) Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture, Japan 9 – 17 February 2015

Leaking Radioactive Water into the Pacific Ocean: Fukushima

Japan

The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Monday admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater has leaked out to sea, fuelling fears of ocean contamination…Earlier this month Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said groundwater samples taken at the battered plant showed levels of possibly cancer-causing caesium-134 had shot up more than 110 times in a few days.

TEPCO did not know the exact reasons for the increased readings but had maintained the toxic groundwater was likely contained at the current location, largely by concrete foundations and steel sheets.  “But now we believe that contaminated water has flown out to the sea,” a TEPCO spokesman said Monday (July 22, 2013).  However, the spokesman insisted that the impact of the radioactive water on the ocean would be limited.  “Seawater data have shown no abnormal rise in the levels of radioactivity.”

Radioactive substances released by the meltdowns of reactors at the plant in the aftermath of the huge tsunami of March 2011 have made their way into underground water, which usually flows out to sea.  Environment experts warn that such leakage may affect marine life and ultimately impacting humans who eat sea creatures.

Excerpt, TEPCO admits radioactive water leaked into sea at Fukushima, AFP, July 22, 2013

See also Japan and the Radioactive Water

Living with Radiactivity: Japan

Japan warned on Sunday it could take months to stop radiation leaking from a nuclear plant crippled by a huge earthquake and tsunami three weeks ago, while voters said a coalition would better handle the crisis and post-quake recovery effort.  An aide to embattled Prime Minister Naoto Kan said the government’s priority was to stop radiation leaks which were scaring the public and hindering work on cooling overheated nuclear fuel rods. “We have not escaped from a crisis situation, but it is somewhat stabilized,” said Goshi Hosono, a ruling party lawmaker and aide to Kan.  “How long will it take to achieve (the goal of stopping the radiation leakage)? I think several months would be one target,” Hosono said on a nationwide Fuji TV programme on Sunday.

In the face of the prolonged crisis, nearly two-thirds of Japanese voters believe the ruling Democratic Party should join hands with the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), a Yomiuri newspaper poll showed, potentially warming lawmakers in both camps to the scheme.  Kan last month invited Sadakazu Tanigaki, head of the LDP, to join the cabinet as deputy premier for disaster relief, but Tanigaki rejected the offer.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) found a crack in a concrete pit at its No.2 reactor in the Fukushima Daiichi complex at the weekend, generating readings of 1,000 millisieverts of radiation per hour in the air inside.  The leaks did not stop after concrete was poured into the pit, and TEPCO turned to water-absorbent polymers to prevent any more contaminated water from flowing out. The latest effort to stop radioactive water entering the Pacific started on Sunday afternoon.  “We were hoping the polymers would function like diapers but are yet to see a visible effect,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a deputy director general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.  Officials believe the crack may be one source of the radiation leaks that have hobbled efforts to control the six-reactor complex and sent radiation levels in the sea to 4,000 times the legal limit.

Nishiyama said three of the six reactors were now generally stable. TEPCO has said it will scrap at least four reactors once they are under control, but this could take years or even decades.  Japan’s crisis has rocked the nuclear industry and the European Union said on Sunday it will affect the fight against climate change as energy policies are reviewed.  Germany and Switzerland have said they will shut older reactors or suspend approvals, China has suspended approvals for new plants, and Taiwan is studying cutting nuclear output.Manufacturing in the world’s third largest economy has slumped to a two-year low as a result of power outages and quake damage hitting supply chains and production.

Excerpt from —By Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa Chizu Nomiyama and Yoko Nishikawa, Japan says it may take months to end radiation leaks, Reuters, Apr 3,2011