Radioactive Contamination of Oceans: Sellafield, La Hague, Fukushima

Frankly speaking, I find it amazing that the people and the media talk so much about Fukushima Daiichi having leaked contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean since March 2011, and about Tepco possible future release of the tritiated water accumulated on site into the Pacific Ocean.

Whereas nobody ever talks about how much contaminated water the Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing site on England’s west coast has been releasing into the Irish Sea (then from there flowing into the Atlantic Ocean), and how much contaminated water the La Hague nuclear fuel reprocessing site on France west coast has been releasing into the English Channel (then from there flowing into the Atlantic Ocean.

If you think that Fukushima Daiichi is contaminating the Pacific Ocean since 2011, why are aren’t you aware that Sellafield and La Hague have been contaminating the Atlantic Ocean for decades already?

Both sites having large pipes underwater going far from the land into the sea, both releasing their contaminated water at sea now for decades, with the gracious authorization of the IAEA.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sellafield
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Hague_site

It might be because few people actually know about it, or because it is easier to point the finger to somebody else far away than at home. Of course it also serves the political and economic interests of both England and France to make their people mindful of what’s happening over there in Fukushima while keeping them blind about what’s happening in their own backyards, their media editors knowing very well what issues are to be avoided as too sensitive to be handled.

Of course I am not saying that the radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean by Fukushima Daiichi should not be published, not looked into, not adressed.

What I am saying is that the radioactive contamination of the Atlantic by Sellafield and La Hague in parallel should be also published, looked into, as much adressed, not swept under the carpet, and the people well informed about it, especially as this has been going on for decades authorized by the IAEA.

 

A few related articles about Sellafield :

There is more radioactive plutonium in the sediments off the Sellafield plant in the Irish Sea than at the underwater Russian Novaya Zemlya nuclear weapons test site, according to Greenpeace.

The environmental group yesterday released further data arising from its ongoing survey of the Irish Sea. It has been measuring radioactive contamination in sediments and seaweed along British and Irish coasts for several weeks. Last week it visited Dundalk bay, retrieving seaweed as part of this activity. The data released yesterday related to the plutonium and caesium content of sediment taken adjacent to a Sellafield waste-discharge pipe two kilometres off the Cumbrian coast.”

June 1988 : Irish Sea radioactivity `worse than at nuclear site’ https://www.irishtimes.com/news/irish-sea-radioactivity-worse-than-at-nuclear-site-1.161463

 

A record number of radioactive hotspots have been found contaminating public beaches near the Sellafield nuclear complex in Cumbria, according to a report by the site’s operator.

As many as 383 radioactive particles and stones were detected and removed from seven beaches in 2010-11, bringing the total retrieved since 2006 to 1,233. Although Sellafield insists that the health risks for beach users are “very low”, there are concerns that some potentially dangerous particles may remain undetected and that contamination keeps being found.”

July 2012 : Record number of radioactive particles found on beaches near Sellafield https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/jul/04/radioactive-particles-beaches-sellafield

 

Greenpeace has warned that the dumping of the reprocessing plant’s liquid waste has made the Irish Sea among the most contaminated waters in the world, even though Ireland itself produces no nuclear energy. Irish fishermen have been angered by catches of unsaleable mutated fish and by findings that they have been exposed to low-level radiation.”

Jan 2014 : Irish free to sue British nuclear operators over contamination http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/irish-free-to-sue-british-nuclear-operators-over-contamination-9039178.html

 

Radioactive waste from the Sellafield nuclear plant in Cumbria is contaminating shellfish hundreds of kilometres away on the west coast of Scotland, according to a new scientific study.

Scottish researchers discovered traces of radioactive carbon discharged from Sellafield in the shells of mussels, cockles and winkles as far north as Port Appin in Argyll, 160 miles from the notorious nuclear plant.”

December 2015 : Scottish shellfish are contaminated by radioactive waste from Sellafield http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/14157272.Scottish_shellfish_are_contaminated_by_radioactive_waste_from_Sellafield/

 

A few related articles about La Hague :

According to the ACRO, in general, “there is more tritium in the Channel than in the Pacific waters near the Fukushima power station”. (They certainly should know as they regualarly monitor and analyze the contamination near La Hague, and they have repeatedly traveled to Fukushima to cooperate with the Iwaki Mother’s Radiation Lab to measure contamination there). http://www.lemonde.fr/planete/article/2013/03/28/concentration-anormale-en-tritium-relevee-dans-la-mer-a-proximite-de-la-hague_3149613_3244.html#UGUVieKghcxVdjVv.99

The tritium rejected at La Hague is 1,000 times higher than what is allowed at the nearby Flamanville nuclear plant.” https://www.franceculture.fr/emissions/lsd-la-serie-documentaire/lombre-des-centrales-nucleaires-44-des-poubelles-radioactives

 

Conclusion from my friend Pierre Fetet (Fukushima’s blog) :

There are several differences between La Hague and Fukushima (for Sellafield, I do not know enough):

At La Hague, for example, there is an authorization to reject 50,000 billion Bq of Tritium per day.

While in Fukushima, it is not known at all how much is continuously discharged into the sea in terms of radioactivity, except that it is 300 tons per day of contaminated water and that is not authorized by anyone.

The big difference is that in France that crime is allowed but confidential and that in Fukushima that crime is suffered and mediatized.

But you’re right Hervé, people are not aware and remain uninformed of what is really going on.”

 

For information: Releases by La Hague

20637872_10214212853938087_5602193404803544621_nAnnual Radionuclide Releases Report in terabecquerel (1 terabecquerel = 1 000 000 000 000 becquerels )

 

Special credits to Pierre Fetet and Javale Gola

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Potential releases of 129I, 236U and Pu isotopes from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants to the ocean during 2013 to 2015

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After the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear accident, many efforts were put into the determination of the presence of 137Cs, 134Cs, 131I and other gamma-emitting radionuclides in the ocean, but minor work was done regarding the monitoring of less volatile radionuclides, pure beta-ray emitters or simply radionuclides with very long half-lives.

In this study we document the temporal evolution of 129I, 236U and Pu isotopes (239Pu and 240Pu) in seawater sampled during four different cruises performed 2, 3 and 4 years after the accident, and compare the results to 137Cs collected at the same stations and depths.

Our results show that concentrations of 129I are systematically above the nuclear weapon test levels at stations located close to the FDNPP, with a maximum value of 790 x107 at·kg-1, that exceeds all previously reported 129I concentrations in the Pacific Ocean.

Yet, the total amount of 129I released after the accident in the time 2011-2015 was calculated from the 129I/137Cs ratio of the ongoing 137Cs releases and estimated to be about 100 g (which adds to the 1 kg released during the accident in 2011).

No clear evidence of Fukushima-derived 236U and Pu-isotopes has been found in this study, although further monitoring is encouraged to elucidate the origin of the highest 240Pu/239Pu atom ratio of 0.293±0.028 we found close to FDNPP.

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b03057

New TEPCO executives tripping over their tongues

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TEPCO Chairman Takashi Kawamura, right, receives a formal letter of complaint from an executive member of JF Zengyoren, a nation-wide federation of fishery associations, over his comment about dumping contaminated water to the sea on July 19 in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward.
Hoping to restore trust in embattled Tokyo Electric Power Co., the company’s new chairman and president have instead generated unwanted criticism and hostility in their first gaffe-filled month on the job.
They have added to the problems facing the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, which also is hoping to bring its idled reactors back online.
On July 19, TEPCO Chairman Takashi Kawamura, who is also honorary chairman of Hitachi Ltd., was apologizing at the headquarters of JF Zengyoren, a nationwide federation of fishery associations, in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward. He was forced to explain “the true intention” of remarks he made last week regarding the release of diluted radiation-contaminated water into the sea.
On July 12, during a collective media interview session, Kawamura said “the decision has been made” to do so.
On the Fukushima plant premises, nearly 780,000 tons of water used to cool the reactors are stored, which had been decontaminated of radioactive cesium and plutonium but not tritium. Legally, the tritium-tainted water can be released into the sea, if diluted enough so the concentration of tritium is below a set standard.
However, as the release would add further adversity to the struggling fishing industry in Fukushima and neighboring prefectures, the central government has not made any clear decision on what to do with it.
Kawamura, however, also said, “I am on the same line as the opinion of chair Shunichi Tanaka (of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority) that it is scientifically safe (to discharge water into the sea).”
On July 14, disaster reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino expressed concerns that releasing the water now would “definitely affect public sentiment” over catches from Fukushima Prefecture, where full-scale fishing had been stalled.
At the July 19 meeting with the fishery federation, Kawamura retracted his comment, saying, “As a company or personally, no decision has ever been made whether to release contaminated water to the sea. The true intention of my comments were not properly understood by some media agency.” The TEPCO chairman apologized to Hiroshi Kishi, chairman of the federation, and others at the meeting.
Kishi, in return, submitted a letter of protest stating that they “strongly demand not to release radiation-contaminated water to the sea” and it is “unacceptable to the fishery industry and other Japanese people.”
On the same day, Kawamura admitted to the media what he said a week earlier, explaining that he meant “it cannot be independently decided by TEPCO.”
On July 19, in another part of Tokyo, NRA Chairman Tanaka told the media at a regular news conference that he is “boiling with anger” with Kawamura for including him in his comment. He also said Kawamura’s remark symbolizes his reluctance to face Fukushima residents.
“He used me as an excuse,” said Tanaka, who has suggested releasing water before the storage of contaminated water on the site reaches full capacity. “I have told him he needs to confront Fukushima issues as the first party to resolve them even if he faces a backlash. Despite that, he is still looking for an escape.”
On July 10, Kawamura and TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa attended a meeting with NRA members, including Tanaka, in Tokyo.
There, Kawamura said, “TEPCO has a responsibility to show that it can operate a nuclear power plant,” and he was warned by an NRA member for being “overly forward-looking.” Currently, none of TEPCO’s nuclear power plants are on-line.
On June 27, Kobayakawa also landed in hot water after referring to the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, as “where the evacuation order is partially lifted” in a comment to a group of reporters. However, the town has been in a “difficult-to-return zone” since the accident, and no residents are allowed to return to their homes.
At a regular news conference on July 18, a disgruntled Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori said, “I would like TEPCO to fulfill its responsibility as the operator that caused a severe accident.”

Tepco ‘s response to the article about the release of tritiated water into the ocean

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A certain article reported today, “TEPCO decided to release tritiated water into the ocean” quoting the comment of TEPCO’s chairman Mr. Kawamura about the release of tritiated water into the ocean. The comment intended to say that TEPCO shares the same recognition with Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Dr. Tanaka, et al. that in accordance with the current regulation and standard based on scientific and technical ground, there should not be an impact of releasing tritiated water into the ocean. The comment did not intend to announce the concluded policy of the company on the matter.

We need to give our full attention to the satisfaction of both peace of mind of local residents and reconstruction of Fukushima, as well as the safety requirement to meet regulation and standard for the final decision. We will carefully examine our policy on the matter with the government and local stakeholders from such a perspective.

http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/announcements/2017/1444608_10494.html

Will Tepco Dump 770,000 tons of Tritiated Water Into the Pacific Ocean???

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Massive amounts of radiation-contaminated water that has been processed and stored in hundreds of tanks at the plant are hindering decommissioning work and pose a safety risk in case another massive quake or tsunami strikes.

“TEPCO needs to release the water — which contains radioactive tritium that is not removable but considered not harmful in small amounts — into the Pacific Ocean”, de lared Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s new Chairman Takashi Kawamura during an interview at the TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday, July 13, 2017.

The method is favored by experts at the International Atomic Energy Agency and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority as the only realistic option. Earlier, TEPCO had balked at calls by NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka for controlled release of the water, now exceeding 770,000 metric tons, into the sea, fearing a public backlash.

Tepco’s intention to release more than 770,000 metric tons of tritiated water into the sea was relayed by many media, the Japan Times adding to  the volume number of  770,000 metric tons, that it was contained in 580 tanks. The volume number is right, to be precise it concerns 777,647 metric tons of tritiated water, but the 580 tanks number is wrong.

Knowing that those tanks have a capacity of 1000 metric tons each, 777,647 metric tons can only be stored in 780 tanks and not in 580 tanks only.

Of course in that 777,647 metric tons, are not included the other 202,565 metric tons of  only partially decontaminated water, in which Cesium and Strontium are been already filtered out but the other 62 radionuclides have not been yet filtered by the Multi-nuclides Removal System (ALPS). Those 202,565 metric tons stored in some additional 202 tanks more in the Storing Tank Area.

Bringing the total of contaminated water, Cesium/Strontium partially decontaminated water plus the 62 radionuclides decontaminated water (Tritiated water) to a total of 980,212 metric tons stored in 980 tanks.

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Of course it is not question to release the partially decontaminated water (202,565 metric tons) into the sea, only the fully decontaminated water (all radionuclides removed to the exception of tritium), the tritiated water, the 777,647 metric tons.

On the Tepco Press Release on Jul 10,2017, Tepco indicates quite clearly the actual volume of the 2 types of water stored in those tanks. Knowing that all those tanks have a capacity of 1000 metric tons each, the maths are easy.

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Some media along the way, I suspect the Japan Times AGAIN, added the 580 tanks number into its article, maybe a typo from 5 to 7, then the error was copied on and on by the other media.

It is sad to see professionnal media not capable to get their numbers right.

Since that July 13, 2017 declaration from Tepco’s new chairman, Tepco is now backpedaling, saying that they have not yet reached that decision, fearing a public backlash and the ire of the local fishermen.

The radioactive half-life of Tritium is 12,3 years, its radioactive full life is 123 years to 184,5 years. Once inside the body, tritium can lead to internal exposure. Its biological half-life of 10 days, full life 100 to 150 days.

Tepco Press Release July 10, 2017 Nuclear Power Station (310th Release) Nuclear Power Station (310th Release): http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu17_e/images/170710e0201.pdf

 

 

 

Tepco backpedals after disaster reconstruction chief knocks plan to dump tritiated water into sea

Hey, a change in the ‘official’ strategy: why admit it & damage your image when you can keep letting it happen & say you’ve decided not to do it ?

n-tritium-a-20170716-870x580.jpgThe Fukushima No. 1 plant and hundreds of tanks containing tritiated water are viewed from the air in February

 

Tokyo Electric backed off its tritium-dumping decision Friday after disaster reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino said it would cause problems for struggling fishermen trying to recover in Fukushima Prefecture.

The remarks made Friday by the Fukushima native came shortly after the chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. was quoted as saying that the decision to discharge tritium-tainted water from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant into the sea had “already been made.”

After Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura’s remarks were widely reported, the utility scrambled to make a clarification the same day.

According to Tepco’s clarification, Kawamura meant to say that there was “no problem” with the dumping plan, based on government guidelines and “scientific and technological standards.” The statement also said that no final decision had been made.

A government panel is still debating how to deal with the massive amount of tainted water stored in tanks at the atomic plant, where three reactor cores melted after a huge earthquake in March 2011 spawned tsunami that devastated the region and knocked out all power at the plant.

Tritium typically poses little risk to human health unless ingested in high amounts. It remains in filtered water as it is difficult to extract on an industrial basis. Ocean discharges of diluted volumes of tritium-tainted water are a routine part of nuclear power plant operations.

At a news conference, Yoshino said there would “certainly be damage due to unfounded rumors” if the tainted water were dumped into the sea. He urged those pushing for the release “not to create fresh concerns for fishermen and those running fishing operations in Fukushima Prefecture.” He also asked them to take care not to drive fishermen “further toward the edge.”

Yoshino, who is not directly involved in the decision-making process for handling the water, was alluding to local concerns about how people’s livelihoods will be affected if people think marine products from Fukushima are contaminated with radiation. He added that while he is aware that many in the scientific community say the diluted water can be safely released, he remains opposed.

As I am also a native of Fukushima Prefecture, I fully understand the sentiment of the people,” the minister said.

Water injected to perpetually cool the damaged reactors becomes tainted in the process. A high-tech filtering apparatus set up at the plant can remove 62 types of radioactive material but not tritium. As a result, tritiated water is building up continuously at the plant. As of July 6, about 777,000 tons were stored in about 580 tanks on the premises.

On March 11, 2011, tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, which is situated 10 meters above sea level, and crippled its power supply, causing a station-wide blackout. The failure of the cooling systems in reactors 1, 2 and 3 then led to a triple core meltdown that became the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/15/national/tepco-backpedals-disaster-reconstruction-chief-knocks-plan-dump-tritiated-water-sea/#.WWoQ3IqQzdQ

 

Assessing Fukushima-derived radiocesium in migratory Pacific predators

??? Good news if true…

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The 2011 release of Fukushima-derived radionuclides into the Pacific Ocean made migratory sharks, teleosts, and marine mammals a source of speculation and anxiety regarding radiocesium (134+137Cs) contamination, despite a lack of actual radiocesium measurements for these taxa.

We measured radiocesium in a diverse suite of large predators from the North Pacific Ocean and report no detectable (i.e., ≥ 0.1 Bq kg-1 dry wt) of Fukushima-derived 134Cs in all samples, except in one olive ridley sea turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) with trace levels (0.1 Bq kg-1).

Levels of 137Cs varied within and across taxa, but were generally consistent with pre-Fukushima levels and were lower than naturally-occurring 40K by one to two orders of magnitude.

Predator size had a weaker effect on 137Cs and 40K levels than tissue lipid content.

Predator stable isotope values (δ13C and δ15N) were used to infer recent migration patterns, and showed that predators in the central, eastern, and western Pacific should not be assumed to accumulate detectable levels of radiocesium a priori.

Non-detection of 134Cs and low levels of 137Cs in diverse marine megafauna far from Fukushima confirms negligible increases in radiocesium, with levels comparable to those prior to the release from Fukushima.

Reported levels can inform recently developed models of cesium transport and bioaccumulation in marine species.

http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b00680