Extreme makeover: Fukushima nuclear plant tries image overhaul

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Officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the Fukushima nuclear plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors
 
August 3, 2018
Call it an extreme makeover: In Japan’s Fukushima, officials are attempting what might seem impossible, an image overhaul at the site of the worst nuclear meltdown in decades.
At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there’s a flashy new administrative building, debris has been moved and covered, and officials tout the “light” radioactive security measures now possible.
“You see people moving around on foot, just in their uniforms. Before that was banned,” an official from the plant’s operator TEPCO says.
“These cherry blossoms bloom in the spring,” he adds, gesturing to nearby foliage.
If it sounds like a hard sell, that might be because the task of rehabilitating the plant’s reputation is justifiably Herculean.
In 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed thousands and prompted the meltdown of several reactors.
It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and has had devastating psychological and financial effects on the region.
But TEPCO officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors, and touting a plan to attract 20,000 people a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
 
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Upbeat messaging from Fukushima’s operator TEPCO belies the enormity of the challenge to decommission the plant
 
Officials point out that protective gear is no longer needed in most of the plant, except for a small area, where some 3,000 to 4,000 workers are still decontaminating the facility.
Since May, visitors have been able to move around near the reactors on foot, rather than only in vehicles, and they can wear “very light equipment,” insists TEPCO spokesman Kenji Abe.
That ensemble includes trousers, long sleeves, a disposable face mask, glasses, gloves, special shoes and two pairs of socks, with the top pair pulled up over the trouser hem to seal the legs underneath.
And of course there’s a geiger counter.
The charm offensive extends beyond the plant, with TEPCO in July resuming television and billboard adverts for the first time since 2011, featuring a rabbit mascot with electrical bolt whiskers called “Tepcon”.
But the upbeat messaging belies the enormity of the task TEPCO faces to decommission the plant.
It has installed an “icewall” that extends deep into the ground around the plant in a bid to prevent groundwater seeping in and becoming decontaminated, or radioactive water from inside flowing out to the sea.
 
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About 100,000 litres of water still seeps into the plant each day, which requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity
 
But about 100,000 litres (26,400 gallons) of water still seeps into the plant each day, some of which is used for cooling. It requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity.
Once treated, the water is stored in tanks, which have multiplied around the plant as officials wrangle over what to do with the contaminated liquid.
There are already nearly 900 tanks containing a million cubic metres of water—equal to about 400 Olympic swimming pools.
And the last stage of decommissioning involves the unprecedented task of extracting molten nuclear fuel from the reactors.
“There was the Chernobyl accident, but they didn’t remove the debris,” said Katsuyoshi Oyama, who holds the title of TEPCO’s “risk communicator”.
“So for what we have to do here, there is no reference.”
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NRA OKs plan to bury radioactive waste from nuke plant decommissioning for 100,000 yrs

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The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is seen in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on July 17, 2018.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) plans to require that highly radioactive waste generated when nuclear reactors are decommissioned be buried underground at least 70 meters deep for about 100,000 years until the waste becomes no longer hazardous.
Moreover, disposal sites for such waste should not be built in areas that could be affected by active faults or volcanoes.
The plan is part of the proposed regulatory standards on disposal sites for radioactive waste from dismantled nuclear reactors, which the NRA approved on Aug. 1. The NRA will hear opinions from power companies operating nuclear plants and other entities before finalizing the regulatory standards.
Low-level radioactive waste generated when reactors are dismantled is graded by three ranks in descending order from L1 to L3.
The proposed regulatory standards cover L1 waste, such as containers for control rods and fuel assemblies.
There have been no regulatory standards for L1 radioactive waste even though a growing number of nuclear reactors are bound to be decommissioned under the regulatory standards for nuclear plants that have been stiffened following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.
Under the proposed regulatory standards for L1 waste, electric power companies would be required to build disposal sites on stable ground. Such facilities should not be built near faults at least 5 kilometers in length. Moreover, utilities would be mandated to confirm from records or geological surveys that there has been no volcanic activity over the past 2.6 million years or so near where they plan to build the disposal sites.
Power companies would also be obligated to avoid building disposal sites near oil or mineral deposits because areas with such natural resources may be excavated in the future.
Such radioactive waste must be regularly monitored over a roughly 300- to 400-year period following its disposal to see if the waste contaminates nearby groundwater. The owners of disposal sites would then be banned from digging areas surrounding the facilities without permission from the central government.
The proposed standards also require that additional radiation exposure dosages from disposal sites be limited to 0.3 millisieverts or less a year in accordance with international standards. It is also required to confirm whether radiation doses would be below that limit even if the functions for shielding radiation were partially lost, such as the container holding radioactive waste being broken, by analyzing doses under such scenarios.

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Safety from Japanese Radiation Contaminated Food Import Should or Should Not Be a Political Issue?

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‘Don’t politicize Japanese food import issue’: official

2018/07/31
Taipei, July 31 (CNA) A Taiwan official on Tuesday urged all sides not to politicize food safety after Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan last week raised concerns over an opposition party-initiated referendum to prevent the government lifting an import ban on food from radiation-affected areas of Japan.
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) held an event on July 24 to promote a referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government lifting a ban on the import of food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba — following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
Following the KMT event, Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata (沼田幹夫) issued an open letter to the public, calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing,” while urging Taiwan to lift the ban that he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.” Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
Asked to comment, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), said as a democratic country governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
She reiterated that the government will do everything possible to safeguard public health, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, will make the final decision on whether to lift the ban.
Chang called on all sides to remain clam and rational as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely impact Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other countries.
The foreign ministry-funded TJRA handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has said it is considering lifting the ban but has run into heavy opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then.

Food safety issue should not be politicized: official

Aug 01, 2018
Food safety should not be politicized, a top diplomat said yesterday, after Japan’s representative to Taiwan last week raised concerns over a proposed referendum to prevent the government from lifting an import ban on food from Japanese prefectures linked to a 2011 nuclear power plant disaster.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Tuesday last week held an event to promote the referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government from lifting a ban on the import of food products from Japan’s Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures that was imposed following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.
Japanese Representative to Taiwan Mikio Numata later issued an open letter calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing” and urging Taiwan to lift the ban, which he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.”
Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
Asked to comment on Numata’s remarks, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲) said that as Taiwan is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people from exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
However, the government would do everything possible to safeguard public health, she said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, would make a final decision on whether to lift the ban.
Chang called on all sides to remain calm and rational, as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely affect Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other nations.
The association, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party administration has said it is considering lifting the ban, but the effort has been met with heavy opposition.

TEPCO to open museum to display decommissioning process for Fukushima reactors

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A rendering of a stage, which projects the life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor, enabling visitors to see inside of the reactor that suffered a meltdown, using computer graphics and actual footage.
 
July 31, 2018
TOMIOKA, Fukushima — Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced on July 27 that it will open a museum here to display exhibitions in relation to the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and its decommissioning work.
The exhibition, which is scheduled to start in November 2018, will mostly display films in which actors re-enact scenes in the form of dramas, to inform visitors of how the Fukushima nuclear disaster that began on March 11, 2011, was handled and follow-up work, in sections titled, “Memories and records” and “Reflections and lessons.” On a different floor, drama footage introducing measures taken to lower the risk of decommissioning work and descriptions of the enormous worksite will be screened in sections titled, “Conditions at the scene” and “Progress of the work.”
There will also be a stage in which a life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor is projected, using both computer graphics and actual footage. Visitors can also experience a simulation of the situation at the time of the meltdowns and see images of the actual debris.
Makoto Okura, head of TEPCO’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, stated at a press conference, “I want the museum to serve as a venue for people hesitant to come back to local areas to understand what kind of accident it was, and what it’s like in reality.”
The venue for the museum will be a refurbished former Energy Kan building in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka, which was shut down after the disaster. The exhibition space is approximately 1,900 square meters spread over two stories. Entry to the museum will be free.

Fukushima Unit 2 Refueling Floor Work Poses Risks

Work has begun on the unit 2 refueling floor at Fukushima Daiichi. Previously, TEPCO installed a controlled building on the side of unit 2. This building provides filtered ventilation and a staging area. It will allow workers to send equipment into the reactor building refueling floor. The wall between the two buildings was opened earlier this spring.
After the initial disaster it that unit 2 was creating the most significant radiation releases to the environment.  The highest of the three units that melted down. In 2012 an obvious steam leak from the reactor well was discovered via TEPCO images.
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TEPCO eventually put a filtration system on the building. This prevented radiation releases to the environment. The future plans for this unit include removing the entire refueling floor level. The roof and walls down to the refueling floor deck are to be removed. Then a new cover building with replacement systems will be installed. Workers are still unable to enter the refueling floor area. High radiation levels prevent human entry. Only robots have entered. TEPCO has not addressed this radiation risk during the demolition and construction phase. Earlier reporting mentioned the planned use of dust suppressants during the demolition work. There is no management plan for potential radiation releases from the reactor well.
TEPCO’s schedule shows they may begin removing equipment from inside unit 2’s refueling floor as early as mid-July. The building demolition and spent fuel removal schedule is still somewhat vague. This is dependent on other work completion.

Gov’t, TEPCO consider starting removal of debris from 2nd reactor at Fukushima nuke plant

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The inside of the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is seen in this frame grab from video provided by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID).
TOKYO — The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are considering starting the removal of molten nuclear fuel from the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, people familiar with the matter have told the Mainichi Shimbun.
 
Three of the four reactors at the plant in the northern Japanese prefecture of Fukushima suffered core meltdowns after the reactors’ cooling systems shut down due to tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.
According to the sources, an on-site inspection of molten fuel debris inside the reactor’s containment vessel using remote control equipment will be conducted this fiscal year. Data from the test, such as the hardness of the debris and whether it is movable, will be used to develop equipment to remove and store the highly radioactive materials.
Under the road map for decommissioning the power plant revised in September last year, the government and TEPCO are to decide on a reactor on which to start debris removal and determine how to carry out the procedure by March 2020, the end of next fiscal year. Actual removal is scheduled to begin in 2021.
In January of this year, the government and TEPCO managed to insert a pipe with a camera into the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel and captured the image of gravel- or clay-like deposits believed to be fuel debris on the floor.
According to the people familiar with the matter, the government and TEPCO have judged that it is necessary to further examine the conditions of the No. 2 reactor as a possible starting point for fuel debris removal, since inspections needed for such an operation have progressed further on the No. 2 unit more than on the other two reactors that suffered core meltdowns in 2011.
The government and TEPCO will carry out the new probe in the fall or later of this year by inserting a camera-equipped pipe attached with a device capable of directly touching the debris, which will gather data on the reactor’s current conditions. The debris is not taken out of the containment vessel at any point of this survey. In the next fiscal year starting April 2019, they will consider examining wider areas inside the containment vessel and recovering a small sample of molten fuel for analysis ahead of full-fledged extraction in 2021.
As for the other reactors, the No. 3 unit has water inside the containment vessel, the removal of which is difficult, although images of what appeared to be fuel debris were captured inside the reactor in July 2017. The No. 1 reactor, meanwhile, will receive another probe to determine the existence of molten fuel inside because an inspection carried out in March last year failed to spot any debris.
TEPCO will shortly submit a plan for the examination of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors’ interior for fiscal 2019 and later to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Suzuki and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)