TEPCO conducts test to halt water injection into crippled reactor

13 may 2019.jpgThis March 11, 2019 photo, taken from Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, shows the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which was struck by the 2011 earthquake-tsunami disaster in northeastern Japan and is in the process of being decommissioned.

May 13, 2019
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Monday conducted a test to temporarily halt the water being injected into one of the reactors that suffered a core meltdown in the wake of the 2011 accident
Through the test, which is the first of its kind, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. plans to obtain data on how the temperature inside the No. 2 reactor could rise in the event of an emergency and use the input to update its response.
More than eight years on from the start of what has become one of the world’s worst nuclear crises, TEPCO continues to pour water inside the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors to keep the melted fuel debris inside them cool.
At 10:40 a.m. Monday, TEPCO completely halted the water injection into the No. 2 unit, which usually receives around 3 tons of coolant per hour.
The temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel, a container that is supposed to hold the fuel, stood at about 24.5 C and TEPCO expects the reading to rise by up to 4 C following the 7-hour test.
Hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011, the Fukushima nuclear complex lost nearly all its power sources and consequently the ability to cool the reactors and spent fuel pools at the Nos. 1 to 4 units.
The conditions of the reactors are now kept relatively stable through recovery efforts, but a massive amount of contaminated water has accumulated at the plant as a result.
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190513/p2g/00m/0dm/071000c

Fukushima plant radioactive water could be stored in tanks long term: gov’t source

Heading toward 1.37 million tons of strontium-90 tea, enough to give a 500ml portion to 2.74 billion people
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May 13, 2019
The Japanese administration is considering keeping the enormous and still growing volume of radioactively contaminated water at the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in storage tanks for the long term, a source close to the government has told the Mainichi Shimbun.
Previously, five options to deal with the contaminated water were being compared: releasing it into the ocean; piping it into a deep stratum of the Earth’s crust; releasing it into the atmosphere as steam; encasing it in cement and burying it; and using electrolysis to hydrogenate tritium — a relatively low-impact radioactive element not filtered out with plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s current decontamination systems — in the water before releasing it into the air.
However, strontium 90 — a radioactive element that can accumulate in the bones — was discovered in treated water in government maximum-busting concentrations just before August 2018 public hearings on the contaminated water problem. The revelation “completely destroyed the premise for discussions,” the Mainichi source said, and public worries about releasing the water into the environment prompted the government to reconsider.
As a result, a Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry expert committee on the contaminated water issue set to meet in June will add long-term tank storage to the existing five options.
According to the government source, the administration will take the expert committee’s opinions into account when it makes a final decision on the water problem. However, views in the prime minister’s office are apparently split. Furthermore, the government is worried that taking any decision ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games could invite increased attention on the problem and risks the spread of harmful rumors, making it very difficult to project which method will be chosen.
Any of the options is expected to take about two years to implement, a senior industry ministry official said.
Meanwhile, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa warned at a March news conference that “the time when a decision must be made (on how to deal with the contaminated water) is very close indeed.”
There is already over 1 million metric tons of contaminated water stored on-site at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, while existing plans will see total capacity max out at 1.37 million tons in 2020. At the current rate of increase, all the 10-meter-tall tanks will be full in four to five years. It is thought that the government will look into processing the water in small quantities as the total volume nears capacity, beginning with the most lightly contaminated.
However, “from a scientific and technical standpoint, the only choice is to dilute it and release it into the ocean,” Fuketa said at the March news conference. The industry ministry’s panel of experts has released figures showing this is also the fastest and lowest-cost option.
The water volume continues to increase due to ground water flowing into the fractured reactor buildings, and the need to keep pumping more water into the shattered reactor cores to cool the nuclear fuel debris inside. Just after the March 2011 triple-meltdown at the plant triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings was around 400 tons daily. A subterranean ice wall and other measures have cut this by about half, but eliminating it entirely is impossible.
It is expected to take until 2051 to finish decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant, including processing the contaminated water.
https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190513/p2a/00m/0na/006000c?fbclid=IwAR073VgJRSeZObQZWxnufaW7bQVUNFuGKIoJAdnxFOI-XzjQhvJa2pvqQQY

TEPCO to slice dangerous chimney at Fukushima plant

chimney reactors 1 & 2 10 may 2019.jpgA chimney for both the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors remains unrepaired at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. At left is the No. 1 reactor building.

May 10, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. plans to start work on May 20 to dismantle a 120-meter-tall, highly contaminated chimney that could collapse at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
It will be the first highly radiated facility at the plant to be taken apart, the company said May 9.
The stack, with a diameter of 3.2 meters, was used for both the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors. TEPCO plans to remove the upper half of the chimney within this year to prevent the structure from collapsing.
The dismantling work will be conducted by remote control because the radiation level around the base of the chimney is the highest among all outdoor areas of the plant. Exposure to radiation at the base can cause death in several hours.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck in March 2011, pressure increased in the containment vessel of the No. 1 reactor. Vapors with radioactive substances were sent through the chimney to the outside.
TEPCO also found fractures in steel poles supporting the chimney. The damage was likely caused by a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor building when the nuclear disaster was unfolding.
Since then, the chimney has been left unrepaired because of the high radiation levels.
Immediately after the nuclear accident, a radiation level exceeding 10 sieverts per hour was observed around the base of the chimney. In a survey conducted in 2015, a radiation level of 2 sieverts per hour was detected there.
TEPCO will use a large crane that will hold special equipment to cut the chimney in round slices from the top.
The company set up a remote control room in a large remodeled bus about 200 meters from the chimney. Workers will operate the special cutting equipment while watching footage from 160 video cameras.
http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905100045.html

New Discovery At Fukushima Unit 3 Provides Clues To Meltdown Severity, Environmental Releases

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May 3, 2019
TEPCO recently published a video of the work to remove spent fuel from the unit 3 fuel pool. In this video was an unexpected finding with serious implications.
In the video of the fuel assembly removal from a fuel rack inside the spent fuel pool, was a tell tale sign of something significant. Prior to the effort to remove fuel from the pool, the pool underwent significant cleaning work. This included removing most of the debris that fell into the pool along with use of a vacuum to remove small pieces of broken concrete and dust.
What remains adhered to the side of the fuel rack appears to be the same thick white substances found inside the reactor containment of unit 3 and in the pedestal below the reactor vessel. These substances also have the same appearance as those inside containment. They are stuck to both vertical and horizontal surfaces as if they splattered then stuck to where they landed. What these may be and how they managed to end up on the fuel racks is explained further in this report.
Read more:
Simply Info

New Discovery At Fukushima Unit 3 Provides Clues To Meltdown Severity, Environmental Releases

Japan needs thousands of foreign workers to decommission Fukushima plant, prompting backlash from anti-nuke campaigners and rights activists

Activists are not convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel ‘pressured’ to ignore risks if jobs are at risk
Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high
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Workers move waste containing radiated soil, leaves and debris from the decontamination operation at a storage site in Naraha town.
26 Apr, 2019
Anti-nuclear campaigners have teamed up with human rights activists in Japan to condemn plans by the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to hire foreign workers to help decommission the facility.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has announced it will take advantage of the government’s new working visa scheme, which was introduced on April 1 and permits thousands of foreign workers to come to Japan to meet soaring demand for labourers. The company has informed subcontractors overseas nationals will be eligible to work cleaning up the site and providing food services.
About 4,000 people work at the plant each day as experts attempt to decommission three reactors that melted down in the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the huge tsunami it triggered. Towns and villages around the plant are still out of bounds because radiation levels are dangerously high.
TEPCO has stated foreign workers employed at the site must have Japanese language skills sufficient for them to understand instructions and the risks they face. Workers will also be required to carry dosimeters to monitor their exposure to radiation.
Activists are far from convinced working at the site is safe for anyone and they fear foreign workers will feel “pressured” to ignore the risks if their jobs are at risk.
“We are strongly opposed to the plan because we have already seen that workers at the plant are being exposed to high levels of radiation and there have been numerous breaches of labour standards regulations,” said Hajime Matsukubo, secretary general of the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre. “Conditions for foreign workers at many companies across Japan are already bad but it will almost certainly be worse if they are required to work decontaminating a nuclear accident site.”
Companies are desperately short of labourers, in part because of the construction work connected to Tokyo hosting the 2020 Olympic Games, while TEPCO is further hampered because any worker who has been exposed to 50 millisieverts of radiation in a single year or 100 millisieverts over five years is not permitted to remain at the plant. Those limits mean the company must find labourers from a shrinking pool.
In February, the Tokyo branch of Human Rights Now submitted a statement to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva demanding action be taken to help and protect people with homes near the plant and workers at the site.
“It has been reported that vulnerable people have been illegally deceived by decontamination contractors into conducting decontamination work without their informed consent, threatening their lives, including asylum seekers under false promises and homeless people working below minimum wage,” the statement said. “Much clean-up depends on inexperienced subcontractors with little scrutiny as the government rushes decontamination for the Olympic Games.”
Cade Moseley, an official of the organisation, said there are “very clear, very definite concerns”.
“There is evidence that foreign workers in Japan have already felt under pressure to do work that is unsafe and where they do not fully understand the risks involved simply because they are worried they will lose their working visas if they refuse,” he said.
In an editorial published on Wednesday, the Mainichi newspaper also raised concerns about the use of semi-skilled foreign labourers at the site.
“There is a real risk of radiation exposure at the Daiichi plant and the terminology used on-site is highly technical, making for a difficult environment,” the paper said. “TEPCO and its partners must not treat the new foreign worker system as an employee pool that they can simply dip into.”
The paper pointed out that it may be difficult to accurately determine foreign employees’ radiation levels if they have been working in the nuclear industry before coming to Japan, while they may also confront problems in the event of an accident and they need to apply for workers’ accident compensation. TEPCO has played down the concerns.
“About 4,000 Japanese workers are already working on the decommissioning and clean-up work at Fukushima Dai-ichi,” the company said. “The amendment to the regulations on workers from overseas is a measure that creates more employment opportunities, including for foreign nationals with specific skills.
“In March, TEPCO explained the new regulations to its contractor companies involved in the clean-up work at Fukushima Dai-ichi and we have also confirmed that those companies will be in compliance with the regulations covering the safety of workers.”

Safety, language measures needed for foreigners to work at Fukushima plant

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April 24, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is preparing to bring in
foreign workers with special technical skills to join decommissioning work on the disaster-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
At present, an average of 4,000 employees of TEPCO and cooperating firms work at the facility every day. Laws and regulations stipulate that workers’ radiation exposure must be limited to 50 millisieverts in a single year, and 100 millisieverts over five years. No one is allowed to stay at the plant once they hit one of these caps, so waves of new employees must be brought in to maintain worker numbers.
Decommissioning the Daiichi plant, which suffered a triple core meltdown in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, is expected to take 30 to 40 years. Whether the companies involved can sustain sufficient staffing levels will be one factor that determines the success or failure of the project.
When it comes to tapping foreign labor to make up the required numbers, the Justice Ministry — which has jurisdiction over Japan’s immigration system — has already declined to approve sending foreign technical intern trainees to work at the plant. One of the core tenets of the foreign technical trainee program is that the job placements must provide the trainees with skills they can use in their home countries, and working to decommission a devastated nuclear plant did not fit the bill.
TEPCO is now turning its eyes to foreign workers with Category 1 work visas, one of the new residency statuses launched on April 1 and aimed at those with certain skills and experience. Technical trainees with three years’ experience in Japan can obtain this visa without a skills exam.
However, there is a real risk of radiation exposure at the Daiichi plant, and the terminology used on-site is highly technical, making for a difficult environment. TEPCO and its partners must not treat the new foreign worker system as an employee pool they can simply dip into.
The workers’ Japanese level is particularly a cause for worry. To obtain a Category 1 visa, applicants must speak Japanese at only a “daily conversational” level. However, anyone working at the Daiichi site must understand a slew of technical terms related to radiation and other facets of the decommissioning process, meaning a very high level of Japanese is absolutely indispensable. If foreign employees begin working there without having learned the necessary terminology, we believe there is a real risk they could be ordered to do jobs that exposed them to radiation.
TEPCO has said it is up to its project partners whether they employ Category 1 foreign workers. In fact, the majority of people at Fukushima Daiichi are employed by one of the firms that make up the layers upon layers of subcontractors working on the decommissioning. Nevertheless, as the company heading the project, TECPO has a responsibility to oversee the conditions of every worker, right down to the bottom of the pyramid.
Furthermore, if a foreign worker has been exposed to radiation overseas, that dose must be added to their sievert count at the plant. However, it is up to the worker to report any previous radiation exposure, which can make it difficult to properly track and manage their doses.
If a worker develops a radiation-related illness after returning to their home country, will they be able to smoothly apply for workers’ accident compensation? This is also a serious worry.
If Japan is to accept foreign workers to help decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant, it is absolutely essential to create the appropriate environment, including measures to boost their Japanese skills and strengthen radiation exposure management.

TEPCO transfers some fuel from Fukushima plant No. 3 unit pool

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This photo taken from a Kyodo News helicopter shows a trailer (bottom center) thought to be carrying nuclear fuel from one of the reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
April 23, 2019
FUKUSHIMA, Japan(Kyodo) — The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant said Tuesday it has transferred some nuclear fuel from one of the reactor buildings damaged by hydrogen explosions in the 2011 disaster to another location for safer storage and management.
It was the first removal of such fuel from storage pools of the Nos. 1 to 3 units, which suffered meltdowns after losing power in the crisis triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami.
Seven unspent fuel rod assemblies were transferred Tuesday to a common pool about 100 meters away, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The transfer of nuclear fuel, which emits high levels of radiation, from the No. 3 unit pool is expected to lower the risk of the decommissioning work. The utility began the process of removing fuel there on April 15.
At around 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, a trailer began relocating the fuel assemblies, placed in a cylinder-shaped cask, to the common pool. The task was completed in about 20 minutes, carried out by about a dozen workers donning protective gear.
Since the common pool undergoes regular checkups required by law, the fuel transfer will be suspended possibly until July, the operator said.
TEPCO aims to transfer all of the remaining 559 spent and unspent fuel assemblies in the No. 3 unit storage pool to the common pool by March 2021.
The fuel removal at the No. 3 unit was originally scheduled to start in late 2014, but was pushed back multiple times as high levels of radiation, among other factors, caused delays in preparation of fuel transfer.
In fiscal 2023, the utility aims to start the task of removing fuel at the storage pools of the Nos. 1-2 units and has been assessing their surroundings.
Even if the fuel removal work progresses smoothly, TEPCO still faces the biggest challenge involved in the decommissioning of the crippled plant — retrieval of melted fuel that has dripped down in the containment vessels — at the Nos. 1-3 units.