Storage tanks at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant hold more than 1 million tons of tainted water.
Fukushima’s contaminated water to run out of tanks in 2022
With Olympics approaching, Tokyo hesitant to release into ocean
August 09, 2019
TOKYO — Tanks containing runoff from the devastated Fukushima nuclear plant are likely reach capacity as early as the summer of 2022, a new forecast shows, putting pressure on Japan’s government to dispose of the wastewater.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has leaked water laced with radioactive isotopes since its reactors suffered meltdowns after a crippling March 2011 tsunami.
Various solutions have been proposed, but one that a panel of experts called in 2016 the fastest and least costly — releasing water into the ocean — is opposed by locals who fear it will hurt the image of the region’s seafood.
The 960 tanks located at the site now hold roughly 1.15 million tons of water. Plant administrator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, or Tepco, expects to secure enough tanks to hold 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020.
An average 170 tons of contaminated water was produced each day during fiscal 2018, mostly as the result of groundwater flowing into the ruined plant.
Tepco, which counts a government-backed fund as its top shareholder following a 2012 bailout, aims to reduce the volume to 150 per day next year. Even at that reduced level, the tanks would reach full capacity in either the summer or fall of 2022, Tepco estimates.
This marks the first projection that storage at the plant will reach its limit. The findings will be presented at an expert panel meeting on Friday.
Tepco installed equipment to pump out and decontaminate the water. But the treated water still contains tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope that also occurs in minute amounts in nature.
The utility has been criticized for its handling of the plant after the disaster, with its so-called ice wall, a costly, complex technique of freezing the soil to keep the leaks from reaching the ocean, questioned over its effectiveness.
A panel commissioned by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry considered a plan to dilute and release the water into the ocean. Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, described the approach “most logical.”
But with the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo approaching, the government is worried about a potential blow to its international reputation by releasing the water into the sea. It appears to be dragging its feet on a decision.
In his final pitch to secure the Games six years ago, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had told the International Olympic Committee that the situation at Fukushima was “under control.”
A number of Japan’s trading partners banned imports of seafood from Fukushima and other areas after the nuclear disaster. These restrictions added to the economic pain for the region’s fisheries industry, which was recovering from the physical damage of the tsunami.
In this April 14, 2017 file photo, tanks storing radioactive contaminated water are seen at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.
Tanks storing radioactive water in Fukushima to be full by 2022: TEPCO
August 9, 2019
TOKYO (Kyodo) — It is estimated tanks storing water contaminated with low-toxicity radioactive tritium at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant will be full by the summer of 2022, the plant operator said Friday.
At a meeting of a government panel on the same day, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. was unsupportive of the idea to replace the existing tanks with larger vessels as a long-term storage solution for water that was contaminated when cooling the plant’s cores.
Local fishermen and residents support the storage solution, preferring it to any plan that would see the water released into the sea out of fear over the potential impact on fish stocks.
A nuclear expert from the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, said in 2018 that a controlled discharge of such contaminated water “is something which is applied in many nuclear facilities, so it is not something that is new.”
The treated water remains tainted with the low toxicity tritium as a result of cooling the plant’s reactors, which suffered core meltdowns following the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster. The water is regarded as relatively harmless to humans.
TEPCO also said storing the tanks outside the premises would present difficulties with transportation and getting approval from local governments. Moreover, the tanks would remain even when the decommissioning work was completed and would take up land required for storing debris, the company added.
Toxic water produced by cooling debris and other processes is purified using the Advanced Liquid Processing System, said to be capable of removing almost all radioactive materials except tritium.
As of late July, around 1.1 million tons of tritium-contaminated water was stored on the premises of the plant, according to TEPCO. The utility plans to raise storage capacity to 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020, but plans beyond that have yet to be decided.
The tanks currently fill at the rate of around 150 tons of water per day.
The government panel has looked into five options to dispose of the tainted water including discharging it into the sea and vaporization.
“It is unreasonable to store (the water) forever. The (storage) period and conditions should be established,” a member of the panel said.
Another member argued that the treated water should not be discharged into the ocean at any time soon, saying it is “illogical to sacrifice the livelihood of local residents to proceed with the decommissioning work.”
At the plant, an area of up to around 80,000 square meters, enough to accommodate tanks containing 380,000 tons of treated water, is required to store melted nuclear fuel and other debris that will be extracted in the future, according to TEPCO.
TEPCO also said at the panel meeting it is possible to expand the Fukushima plant by acquiring neighboring land used for interim storage of soil from decontamination work, but that the company hopes to carry out the decommissioning within the area of the existing premises.