The person in charge of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has revealed a possible new way to deal with the radioactive water stored there: just let it evaporate.
“The amount of radioactive water at the plant continues to increase. We need to find a way to reduce it,” says Naohiro Masuda, president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Company.
Masuda and his team of 6,000 workers have struggled with the problem of contaminated water. Workers must constantly inject water into the crippled reactors to cool molten debris and then pump it out. Groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings adds to the problem.
Executives with the plant’s operator, TEPCO, have said they will continue storing the water on site. Masuda says evaporation is one of the options being discussed.
“Diluting the contaminated water and discharging it into the ocean has been discussed. But another option is evaporating the water. This method was used following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US,” he says.
Masuda says the task force of the government is discussing the methods. Masuda’s engineers and workers use purification equipment to remove most of the radioactive substance, but they can’t remove it all. Local fishermen strongly oppose releasing water directly into the ocean. The evaporation method could be an acceptable alternative for them, although some experts say its environmental consequences are unclear.
Handling contaminated water is just one aspect of the highly complex decommissioning process. Masuda believes that he’ll need to rely on the international community for support.
“We’ll be cooperating mainly with the United States, Britain, France, and Russia. We’re already getting help from people at nuclear-related facilities in these counties. We’re learning how to decommission and shut down facilities and deal with contaminated soil,” he says.