Total tally for Fukushima decommission is $75 billion

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April 2, 2018
The decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear power plant will cost an annual $2 billion (220 billion yen) until 2021, an unnamed source told the Japan Times.
 
Half of the money will be used to tackle the radioactive water buildup at the site of the plant and for removing radioactive fuel from the fuel pools. A small amount of funds will be used to research ways of retreating melted fuel from the reactors that got damaged during the 2011 tsunami disaster.
 
The $6 billion for the three years is only part of the total estimated cost for taking Fukushima out of operation.
 
The total decommissioning tally came in at $75 billion (8 trillion yen), as estimated by the specially set up Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp (NDF). That’s four times more than the initial estimate of the costs around the NPP’s decommissioning.
 
Now the operator of Fukushima, Tepco, and the NDF are due to submit their financial plan for the facility to the government for approval by the energy industry minister.
 
In addition to the $6 billion allocated for the cleanup, Tepco will spend another $1.88 billion (200 billion yen) on preparing to start extracting the melted fuel from the three damaged reactors. This seems to be the biggest challenge for the cleanup efforts because of the still high radiation levels as well as technical difficulties.
 
Tepco is still reeling from the effects of the 2011 tsunami and resulting nuclear meltdown. Around 15,000 people died in March 2011, when a magnitude-9 quake caused a deadly tsunami and erased the coastline in the area of the nuclear power plant.
 
At the end of 2016, the Japanese government revised upwards the total costs of the disaster to $192 billion (21.5 trillion yen), stepping up pressure on Tepco to clean up its act and implement urgent reforms to its safety procedures.
 
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TEPCO’s priority is, and will be, to decommission crippled reactors

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March 14, 2018
Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told a news conference last week that the Fukushima nuclear accident is far from over, and that it would be a mistake to think of it solely as something that occurred seven years ago.
 
On the surface, it appears as if a semblance of order has been restored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of one of the most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history. Except for in and around the crippled reactor buildings, workers can now go almost anywhere on the premises without protective clothing.
 
Measures have been set in place to cool debris from the reactor cores and spent nuclear fuel in storage pools.
 
The NRA has considerably downgraded the risk of the plant spewing massive amounts of radioactive substances again.
 
In reality, however, the road to reactor decommissioning is long and arduous.
 
“We are still in no state to see the peak of the mountain,” Fuketa said. “We don’t even know what sort of uphill slope awaits us.”
 
The government last year revised its timetable for reactor decommissioning. The basic target of “decommissioning in 30 to 40 years” has not changed, but the removal of spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor pools will not begin until fiscal 2023, three years later than initially projected.
 
With the state of the immediate surroundings of the reactor cores still being understood only vaguely, any decision on concrete steps for the removal of debris has been postponed by one year to fiscal 2019.
 
The volume of water containing radioactive substances, stored in 850 tanks, has reached 1 million tons, and it will only keep growing with the passage of time. The bloating costs of reactor decommissioning will translate into a heavier taxpayer burden. But trying to rush the job will raise the risk of exposing workers to radiation and inviting accidents.
 
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, started last summer to publicly announce troubles encountered by cleanup crews as “deviations from the norm.”
 
Such issues include injuries or acute illnesses suffered by workers, vehicular collisions while multiple operations are being simultaneously run, and the deterioration of machinery used in emergencies. While most of these cases do not constitute legal violations, they are being reported almost daily.
 
Ensuring the safety of workers is TEPCO’s top priority. The utility must also pay close attention to other factors while proceeding steadily with reactor decommissioning, such as reducing the risks of environmental pollution. It is also crucial for the company to explain the situation to local residents as well as the general public and heed their voices.
 
However, some within the NRA, as well as the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, a group of domestic and overseas experts who advise TEPCO’s board of directors, have frequently expressed concern that TEPCO may start prioritizing its corporate profitability.
 
For TEPCO, which has been bailed out effectively under government control, decommissioning the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be its foremost task. As the very party that allowed the nuclear disaster to occur, it is obviously its responsibility to invest sufficient capital and manpower in this undertaking.
 
In 2013, when Tokyo was bidding for the 2020 Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared in his speech that the issue of contaminated water at the Fukushima plant was “under control.”
 
But such optimism was hardly warranted, given the difficulty that became clear in disposing of the radioactive water.
 
This must be firmly borne in mind by TEPCO, as well as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the utility, and the NRA.
 

Seven years on, no end in sight for Fukushima’s long recovery

March 11, 2018
Japan faces myriad challenges to decommissioning and decontamination
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Removing nuclear fuel from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant will take 30 to 40 years, ‘Tepco says’.
 
TOKYO — After helping shape nuclear policy in post-Fukushima Japan, Shunichi Tanaka, a former chief of the country’s nuclear watchdog, took on another tough assignment — moving to a village still struggling from the 2011 nuclear disaster to help with its recovery effort.
 
In February, Tanaka, who chaired the Nuclear Regulation Authority until last September, became a reconstruction adviser in the tiny village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. Like many in surrounding localities, Iitate residents were ordered to evacuate after a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, led to meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To date, only around 10% of residents have returned.
 
“It won’t be easy to make life like it was before the disaster,” Tanaka said. Nonetheless he will help the village move forward by offering advice on nuclear decontamination and the ongoing dangers of radiation. He also acts as a go-between for the village and the national government.
 
“I’m a jack of all trades,” he says.
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Shunichi Tanaka, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
In his former role at the NRA, Tanaka spearheaded an overhaul of Japan’s nuclear regulatory scheme, setting tough new standards for nuclear power operations intended to prevent another Fukushima-like accident. To date, 12 reactors have cleared the new standards. And yet the public remains largely distrustful of nuclear power — a problem Tanaka believes he can address by building up trust in the areas directly affected by the Fukushima disaster.
 
Challenges in that region, however, remain immense, none more so than decommissioning the damaged power plant. This involves the unprecedented feat of removing and safely storing the plant’s nuclear fuel, part of which has melted and escaped from the reactors it originally powered.
 
Back in September, Tepco and the national government reaffirmed their previous timeline for the cleanup, estimating the decommissioning process would take 30 to 40 years to complete. But the herculean nature of this task is becoming increasingly apparent. Nuclear fuel is too radioactive for humans to approach even when wearing protective gear, and must be handled by remotely controlled robots. But precision machinery is sensitive to radiation, and developing technology able to withstand conditions at the Fukushima site has proved intensely challenging.
 
“I truly cannot say” whether decommissioning can be wrapped up on a 30- to 40-year timeline, and “it is important to be honest,” said Hajimu Yamana, head of the government-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation.
 
The process is also extremely costly. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2016 pegged costs such as decommissioning and victims’ compensation related to the disaster at 21.5 trillion yen ($202 billion at current rates), nearly double its initial estimate of 11 trillion yen.
 
Work to remove and store melted fuel, set to begin as soon as 2021, and assorted other decontamination tasks could pile on additional expenses, depending on how they progress. The Japan Center for Economic Research believes the real cost could be as high as 70 trillion yen. Much of this would be borne by taxpayers, who require a convincing explanation of why costs are so high.
 
Decontaminating the soil poses another thorny problem. Roughly 640,000 cu. meters of contaminated soil, divided into 1-cu.-meter packages, has been delivered to an interim government storage facility between October and January. Yet up to 22 million cu. meters of contaminated earth remains to be treated in Fukushima Prefecture alone, a far larger amount than can be adequately handled at the current pace of work.
 
The government has not even locked down the roughly 1,600 hectares of land needed to complete the facility, which is itself only a temporary solution. Tokyo has pledged that Fukushima Prefecture will not be the final resting place for any of this soil, and looks to move it to a more permanent home elsewhere within 30 years. But even initial steps toward choosing such a site remain to be taken.
 
“It would be difficult and unrealistic to ask other prefectures to shoulder the burden,” Tanaka said. He has proposed decontaminating the soil and using it to fill in wetlands, turning them into farmland or meadowland that would provide a living for residents returning to evacuated areas. An influx of foreign engineers working on decommissioning the Fukushima plant could also give rise to new industry. But whatever plans emerge, the highest and most important hurdle could be simply getting started.
 

Decommissioning Fukushima reactors will take time but progress continues

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In this July 27, 2017 file photo, contaminated water storage tanks are seen on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant grounds, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture
 
March 11, 2018
Over the past year, clumps appearing to be melted fuel debris have been found inside three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant — which will soon mark seven years since being struck by disaster, on March 11.
 
However, the specific properties of the fuel debris remain unclear, and the decision on how to go about extracting the material has been delayed. The mammoth task of decommissioning the nuclear power plant, which is expected to take 40 years, is moving at a sluggish pace.
 
Removing the debris is the most difficult part of the decommissioning process. During an internal probe of nuclear containment vessels at the site, which involved robots, debris-like clumps were discovered in the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, and sand-like sediment was found spread across the bottom of the No. 1 reactor. However, the specific properties and distribution of the debris has not yet been ascertained.
 
In September 2017, the government and TEPCO re-examined its decommissioning operation schedule. Initially, it was planned that the reactor which would undergo decommissioning first, as well as the method, would be decided by the end of the first half of fiscal 2018. However, the decision was delayed until the end of fiscal 2019 due to a lack of information concerning the situation inside the reactors, as well as the debris.
 
Meanwhile, as part of countermeasures against contaminated water, an ice wall designed to block the flow of underground water has almost been completed. In addition, a sub-drain well that pumps away subterranean water has been reinforced. As a result, the volume of underground water flowing into the buildings housing the reactors has been reduced from roughly 400 metric tons per day, which was the figure immediately after the outbreak of the disaster, to about 80 tons per day — indicating that there has been some progress regarding the “entrance” policy designed to reduce the volume of contaminated water generated at the site.
 
However, the “exit” policy, designed to dispose of treated water after most of the radioactive materials have been removed from the contaminated water, is still up in the air. The major issue concerning this policy is that the radioactive material tritium (tritiated hydrogen) cannot be removed, in principle, from treated water.
 
Tritium is something that appears in the natural world. Based on the fact that it has been flowing out into the sea from nuclear facilities across the globe, the Nuclear Regulation Authority stresses that Fukushima’s treated water containing tritium should be diluted and flushed out into the sea. However, due to fears that this could damage the reputation of the local fishing industry, the government and TEPCO continue to keep the treated water stored in tanks.
 
As a result, the amount of radioactive water stored at the site, including the treated water, has risen to about 1.05 million tons, and the number of tanks has increased to roughly 850. The government has set up a committee looking into how to dispose of the treated water, but consensus has not yet been reached.
 
Meanwhile, with regard to the extraction of fuel from pools of spent nuclear fuel, removal is planned from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors in fiscal 2023, three years later than initially scheduled, and from the No. 3 reactor sometime around mid-FY2018. Special cranes are being installed to prepare for the job.
 

Debris to be removed from side of Fukushima reactors

_w850.jpgWorkers wearing protective suits and masks work on the No. 2 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

 

TOKYO – A state-backed entity tasked with supporting the decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear power station proposed Thursday that melted fuel be removed from the side of three of the crippled reactors as part of the process to scrap the complex.

Based on a formal proposal, the government and the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO) will determine specific approaches to carry out the process on each reactor next month and update the plant decommissioning road map.

Under its strategic plan for 2017, the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp called for the removal of the fuel by partially filling the three reactors with water to cover some of the nuclear debris while allowing access to carry out the work.

The entity also pointed out that the decommissioning work requires phased efforts while maintaining flexibility, as the project still faces many uncertainties.

The extraction work from the Nos. 1-3 reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, which suffered meltdowns following the massive 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, is seen as the most difficult step toward the ultimate goal of decommissioning the entire complex, set to take at least 30 to 40 years to complete.

The government and TEPCO are currently aiming to start the extraction work from 2021.

Under the plan, the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation body proposed using a remotely controlled apparatus to shave debris from the underside of the lower section of the reactors’ containment vessel while controlling the level of water.

Debris remains not only in the reactors’ pressure vessel but also piled and scattered at the bottom of the containment vessel that houses the reactor vessel.

As for debris left in the reactors’ pressure vessel, the entity will consider removing it from the upper part of the reactors, it said.

The decommissioning body had previously considered a strategy to fill the containment vessel with water as water is effective in containing radiation, but it has shelved the idea as the reactor containers are believed to have been damaged and would leak.

Following a magnitude-9.0 earthquake in March 2011, tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, and flooded power supply facilities.

Reactor cooling systems were crippled and the three reactors suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing the Nos. 1, 3 and 4 reactors.

The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation entity was established after the Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, to help the utility pay damages. The state-backed entity holds a majority stake in the operator.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/Debris-to-be-removed-from-side-of-Fukushima-reactors

Muscle robots’ being developed to remove debris from Fukushima reactors

Hitachi-GE testing variety of simply structured, radiation-resistant equipment

20170818_Fukushima-reactor_article_main_image.jpgThe Unit 1 reactor building at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, June 21, 2017.

 

TOKYO — A joint venture between Japanese and American high-technology power houses Hitachi and General Electric is developing special robots for removing nuclear debris from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the most difficult task in decommissioning the plant’s six reactors, three of which suffered core meltdowns in the March 2011 accident.

The machines under development by Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy are called “muscle robots,” as their hydraulic springs operate like human muscles. The company, based in Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, is stepping up efforts to complete the development project in time for the start of debris removal in 2021.

Hitachi-GE is testing the arms of the robots at a plant of Chugai Technos, a Hiroshima-based engineering service company, located a 30-minute drive from the center of the city. The testing is taking place in a structure with a life-size model of the primary containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima plant. The robots awkwardly move about, picking up concrete lumps standing in for fuel debris.

“The robots are based on a concept completely different from those of conventional robots,” said Koichi Kurosawa, a senior Hitachi-GE engineer heading the development project. Hydraulics are being used because electronics cannot survive in the extreme environment inside the reactors.

“Asked if the robots are applicable to other nuclear power plants, I would say the possibility is low,” Kurosawa said, noting that the robots are designed to work amid intense radiation.

New challenges

While Hitachi-GE has built many nuclear reactors, it is encountering a variety of new challenges in developing the muscle robots simply because of the tough work required to retrieve fuel debris.

In the nuclear accident caused by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, cooling the fuel rods became impossible, and melted uranium fuel dropped from them. Some of the fuel broke through nuclear reactor pressure vessels and solidified as fuel debris containing uranium and plutonium.

The debris is estimated to weigh more than 800 tons in total. The insides of the PCVs at the Fukushima plant are directly exposed to the debris and are emitting radioactivity strong enough to kill a human within a few minutes.

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The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, a Tokyo-based research institute for decommissioning nuclear plants, and three reactor makers — Hitachi-GE, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries — have been attempting to ascertain conditions inside the reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant by means of camera- and dosimeter-equipped equipment.

https://asia.nikkei.com/Tech-Science/Science/Muscle-robots-being-developed-to-remove-debris-from-Fukushima-reactors

Fukushima nuke plant decommissioning still has long way to go

 

Mainichi Shimbun reporters visited the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on July 27. While the working environment at the station has improved, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) still has a mountain of problems to tackle, such as removing melted nuclear fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors and treating contaminated water.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170811/p2a/00m/0na/025000c