PART 2: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

Kyodo-Reuters-water-tank01.jpg

 

DOES THE PUBLIC HAVE A SAY?

For their part, representatives of the government and TEPCO I have spoken with invariably stress how important it is to them to reach understand and agreement with all stakeholders, the Fukushima fisheries coops in particular, and to respond to their concerns in the decision-making process. They say they are fully prepared to accommodate the fishermen’s desires regarding the quantity and timing of releases, how they will be monitored, and how to adjust the release parameters in response to what is found after the system begins operation. And although when I point out that concern is not limited to fishermen in Fukushima, but that coops in Miyagi and Iwate, as well as Ibaragi and Chiba also consider themselves stakeholders, and that in fact residents internationally along the entire Pacific rim have already expressed concern, officials voice agreement but cannot point to any concrete efforts to communicate with or include anyone outside of Fukushima or the Tokyo power centers. In the same way, the concerns of major food distributors such as supermarket chains, who ultimately make the decision whether or not to purchase and sell Fukushima marine products nationwide, do not seem to be being addressed.

Shuji Okuda, METI’s Director for Decommissioning and Contaminated Water Management, Nuclear Accident Response Office, Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, stressed that no decision has yet been made which of the five options for dealing with the tritiated water detailed in the 2016 Task Force report will be chosen. In other words, although TEPCO, government ministries, and stakeholders are proceeding as if it’s a done deal, no-one with decision-making power has yet made a decision. “It will be a decision of the Japanese Government as a whole,” Okuda explains, “not one made by any single agency. And it will be based on ample discussions with all stakeholders.” Since the release of the Task Force Report in 2016, METI has been discussing the social impacts quite a lot, he noted. They are particularly concerned about “damaging rumors”- fuhyo higai – that will result from any tritiated water release, and have been discussing how to counter them. He continues, “Because the risks have been demonstrated to be very low, it’s less a question of safety, and more one of potential public reaction and reputational damage. We plan to hold further discussions with stakeholders and the general public to increase understanding.” Regarding international communication efforts, he points to English-language materials and reports the ministry releases, but says that since any impacts will involve primarily Japanese local area, information dissemination overseas is limited to experts, administrative officials and some media.”

METI recently announced that meetings will be held where the public can hear explanations of proposed solutions and comment on them. The Subcommittee on Handling Water Treated by the Polynuclide Removal Facility is one of several Japanese government committees organized by METI tasked with formulating a response to the problem of the radioactive water. The planned public sessions were announced at its eighth meeting, on Friday, May 18th. This is a step in the right direction, and is long overdue. Nevertheless it may well be a case of “too little, too late.”

METI, Subcommittee on handling water treated by the polynuclide removal facility, 8th meeting May 18, 2018 (Report regarding upcoming public hearings on tritiated water problem – in Japanese)

Good public communication about the release plan, the ocean science it involves, and what the expected risks are and why, cannot by themselves guarantee public acceptance. But this kind of communication is essential, particularly with such a globally contentious and high-profile issue like releasing radiation into the ocean. The public needs to know the environmental effects, health effects, how it will be monitored, what transparency measures are in place, what the process for adjustment and revision will be. Almost two years have elapsed since the Tritiated Water task Force released its recommendations, and a broad and energetic stakeholder engagement and information effort should have been ongoing since then. But such efforts are now only in the planning stage. It seems that METI and other ministries have been paralyzed, faced with taking responsibility for a politically damaging decision, forced to acknowledge that they support the plan but unable to take concrete steps to implement it or prepare the public. TEPCO, while it accepts its responsibility for the decision, seeks full government support, including robust public communication efforts. It seems extremely unlikely to act without a clear government decision in favor of the release and stipulating its timing. We should be prepared for the government to remain paralyzed until the last possible moment, when crisis is imminent, and then to announce a decision suddenly, justifying it by saying that time has run out and that it “can’t be helped.” As a colleague pointed out, this is, unfortunately, the Kasumigaseki way.*

When asked what the official position of TEPCO was regarding the plan to release the water, Kohta Seto of TEPCO’s Communication Development, Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company, replied, “We recognize that comprehensive examination of technical and social factors is ongoing currently at the national subcommittee. Our response policy will be made in consultation with the government and related stakeholders based on the subcommittee’s discussions.” This echoes METI’s assertion that no decision has actually been made. But in fact the Tritiated Water Task Force, the subcommittee referred to, has been dormant for over a year, and any further recommendations will come from the higher-level METI Contaminated Water Countermeasures Committee and from the NRA.

Others at TEPCO have acknowledged that the company feels ultimately responsible, and is confronted with a decision that could further damage others. Takahiro Kimoto, General Manager, Nuclear Power & Plant Siting Division, Fukushima Daiichi D&D Engineering Company, notes that under the existing plan and at the current rate, by 2020 there will be no more space to store additional tritiated water onsite at Daiichi. Constructing the dilution facilities and pipelines that the release would require is expected to require almost a year of preparation after any decision is made. At the current rate, that means the “go” signal must be given by early 2019 at the latest. Though TEPCO expects that measures such as the frozen wall and subdrain pumps will continue to reduce the amount of treated water that needs to be stored, nevertheless they recognize that there is a narrowing window for decision and action. The company has no plans to try to obtain land offsite to further expand tank space, which could provide an additional margin of time. Though feasible technically and cost-wise, this would be a stopgap measure that merely delays the decision to deal with the tritium more permanently by the other means already being considered. Kimoto explained that the company does not want to act independently. “The policies can’t and shouldn’t be determined by TEPCO alone, but we continue discussing the available options with government and other stakeholders. How much to empty the tanks, how that should be done to minimize environmental consequences, how to maintain trust and transparency, who we need to engage with on this matter, these are all issues we seek stakeholder engagement on. These discussions are taking a long time, but we consider them essential.” Put bluntly, TEPCO knows they will be the bad guys in this scenario no matter what, and prefer to have as broad support as possible.

TRANSPARENCY

I initially approached this issue as one of transparency and the need to include a broadly-defined base of stakeholders in the decision-making process and subsequent monitoring of the results. That has been experience of SAFECAST, which prioritizes transparency and impartiality, and tries to get as many people involved in environmental monitoring and decision-making as possible, with unprecedented positive results. We have seen similar benefits where citizen groups in Japan monitor food and their own environments, and seek and often gain a vital voice in decisions that affect them. The Fukushima fisheries coops, TEPCO, and METI all said they would welcome transparent, independent, ongoing third-party monitoring of seawater and marine life if and when the tritiated is released. TEPCO and METI say they understand the need for transparency, and are prepared to change their institutional cultures in order to better accommodate it. Okuda of METI observed, “Having accurate data available to the public won’t by itself ensure adequate understanding, but in the end it is essential.”

Based on many conversations, however, I’m not sure enough people in these organizations fully grasp what true transparency means. Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who has been monitoring Fukushima radiation effects in the ocean since immediately after the start of the disaster, started a very effective crowdsourced program to monitor radiation in the Pacific Ocean along the North American coast. He has long complained of the difficulty of getting adequate access to ocean zones close to Daiichi for scientific research. Regarding the need for transparency and independent monitoring he says, “When I talk about independent monitoring, I don’t mean JAEA or IAEA, or other big government-connected institutions, but universities, NGO’s, and other independent research labs.” He adds, “Even before the decision to release the water is made, someone should get a detailed accounting for what is in each tank for all of the radionuclides of concern, not just that they are below detection (using high thresholds), as the large volume of water means even seemingly small amounts add up. This needs to be independent of TEPCO or whoever is in charge of dumping.”

Buesseler and others share my opinion that robust and effective communication is essential, not to persuade the public that official plans are acceptable, but to better equip them to participate in the debate in an informed way, and to push back where they feel it is necessary. More effort should be made in communicating in general, and this requires a better-educated and more scientifically literate public, which means ongoing efforts that begin years before crisis renders it necessary. Independent groups should be involved in interpreting data and presenting the results in a way which does not damage their independence. It may be necessary to set funds for this aside where they cannot be controlled by government or industry. In the case of the tritiated water at Daiichi, though this kind of transparency and engagement will be essential, it will need to be accompanied by appropriate communication efforts. Those responsible for this should not underestimate the challenge or think it can effectively be rolled out in a short period of time.

According to METI, the content, location, and timing of the upcoming public sessions will be discussed at the next subcommitee meeting in July. People unable to attend in person will be able to submit comments and questions via email. Though hastily-planned events could possibly be held before the end of this year, it seems likely they will need to happen in 2019, bumping up against the decision deadline. While some fishermen are likely to attend, the cooperatives themselves will likely refuse. This situation requires the actual involvement of citizens in the decision making process, but it is difficult to find instances of that actually happening in Fukushima since the accident in 2011. At the central government level in particular, it has almost always been DAD — “Decide, Announce, Defend.” Government planners must think seriously about how prevent this from becoming just another clumsy photo-op, a fig leaf that will allow the government to claim it has adequately consulted the public.

A FINAL WORD

Regardless of whether one trusts scientific opinion or TEPCO, the tritiated water cannot be left in the tanks at Daiichi indefinitely, and releasing it to the ocean, though not without risk, is the least objectionable of the available options. As it stands now, given the depth of public mistrust and the nature of misinformation in our current era, the situation is ripe for the maximum misunderstanding and negative social impact to occur if and when this tritiated water is finally released. Unfortunately, I think we should be prepared for things to be done the “Kasumigaseki way,” with much insincere hand-wringing and expressions of regret. There will be negative social impact no matter what, but unless responsible government officials step up soon, own the decision, and ensure that public engagement is genuine, broad, and effective, these negative impacts will be unnecessarily magnified.

* Kasumigaseki is the part of Tokyo where central government functions are located.  It’s similar to Capitol Hill.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

https://blog.safecast.org/2018/06/part-2-radioactive-water-at-fukushima-daiichi-what-should-be-done/

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PART 1: Radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi: What should be done?

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850,000 TONS

Of all the conflicts and consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP disaster, the contaminated water issue is one of the most complicated, contentious, and potentially long-term. It’s a multifaceted problem ultimately rooted in the influx of groundwater into the damaged reactor buildings. A large volume of water is pumped into and out of the damaged reactors each day to keep them cool. This is treated to remove salt and most radionuclides and recirculated back into the reactors. If there were no additional water leaking into the reactor basements, this could function as an essentially closed loop. But a volume equal to the additional groundwater inflow needs to be removed from recirculation. It too is treated to remove all radionuclides except tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen known as H-3, and is being stored in the now familiar rows of tanks onsite at Daiichi. A partially effective underground dam of frozen earth, together with a system of subdrain pumps, has reduced the volume necessary to be removed from about 400 cubic meters per day to about 150-200 cubic meters (though appreciably more when it rains heavily). About 850 large tanks now hold 850,000 tons of tritiated water, and TEPCO says that it will run out of space to store additional water onsite by 2020, so something must be done soon. As far back as 2014, the IAEA recommended a controlled release of this water to the ocean as the safest course of action, and Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Agency (NRA) has made similar recommendations. A Tritiated Water Task Force convened by METI in 2013 examined five options in detail, including evaporating it and releasing it into the atmosphere, releasing it into the atmosphere as hydrogen gas, injecting it into deep geologic strata, storing it underground, and diluting it and discharging it into the ocean. For reasons of cost, available technology, time required, and safety, in its final report issued in June, 2016, the task force concluded that ocean discharge was the least objectionable approach. TEPCO has made it clear that this is its preference as well, and in July of last year Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., said publicly that the decision to release the tritiated water had already been made. Many people were alarmed, particularly Fukushima fishermen who expected to be consulted, and the company backpedalled immediately. So far no decision has been officially announced. The reason for the delay in the decision is the very reasonable expectation of a strong public backlash. Meanwhile the window for the decision to be made is rapidly closing.

METI Tritiated Water Task Force Report, June 2016 (English version)

Preliminary Summary Report: IAEA International Peer Review Mission On Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards The Decommissioning Of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4
(Third Mission), Feb. 2015

Japan Times: Regulator urges Tepco to release treated radioactive water from damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea, Jan. 11, 2018

Japan Times: Fukushima’s tritiated water to be dumped into sea, TEPCO chief says, July 14, 2017

TEPCO: Response to the article about the release of tritiated water into the ocean, July 14, 2017

Asahi Shimbun: New TEPCO executives tripping over their tongues, July 20, 2017

 

OPPOSITION

The strongest and most meaningful opposition comes from Fukushima’s fisheries cooperatives, which have suffered tremendously due to the disaster. Not only were their ports and fishing fleets destroyed by the tsunami, but the market for their fish collapsed after the sale of 44 marine species was prohibited by the Japanese government in 2011 due to radioactive contamination. The public seems largely unaware that in the years since the bans were initiated, the percentage of Fukushima marine products exceeding the 100 Bq/kg allowable level of radioactive cesium has decreased rapidly, and has actually been zero since 2015. People are right to be skeptical of this, perhaps, but it has been confirmed by official testing, by independent researchers, and by testing done by independent citizen groups. Testing is done for each marine variety on a fishing ground-by-fishing ground basis, and as they have gradually been demonstrated to meet the requirements, 34 of the 44 initially banned seafood varieties have been allowed back on the market. Thanks to incrementally improving consumer confidence, the market for Fukushima seafood has slowly improved. The Fukushima fisheries coops justifiably fear that if the tritiated water is released to the ocean, the resulting consumer backlash will totally destroy their livelihoods once again.

Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations

Japan Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF): Results of the monitoring on radioactivity level in fisheries products: Summary of Monitoring on fishery products (As of Mar. 31, 2018)

METI has jurisdiction over contaminated water releases from nuclear reactors like Daiichi because it is responsible for overseeing energy production systems as a whole, including accident consequences. The NRA, which is part of the Environment Ministry, has specific jurisdiction for nuclear power, and its evaluations and guidance are also important. But ultimately the decision of whether or not to release the tritiated water is TEPCO’s. A company spokesman explained to me recently that government guidelines and recommendations are taken very seriously, and that the company goes to great lengths to meet government expectations. But ultimately these recommendations are non-binding. TEPCO hopes to get the green light from METI and the NRA, and all of them have been delaying their decisions in the hopes that the approval of the fisheries coops can be obtained as well.

On the face of it, this hope is not totally unfounded, as there is an important precedent. The fisheries coops have been approving the release of water from two specific sources onsite at Daiichi for several years. One is a bypass system uphill of the reactors that intercepts groundwater before it reaches the reactor area. The other is a subdrain system that pumps water from the area around the reactors. In both cases, the water has relatively low levels of radioactive contamination, and is treated to remove radionuclides and then tested by TEPCO and third-parties (JAEA and the Japan Chemical Analysis Center). If the radioactivity is lower than TEPCO’s self-imposed target levels of 1 Bq/L each for Cs137 and Cs134, 5 Bq/L for Gross beta (including strontium), and 1500 Bq/L for tritium — all of which are many times lower than the limits for drinking water set by the WHO — the fisheries coops agree to its release. This agreement has been in place since 2014 for the bypass water, and since 2015 for the subdrain water. It appears to have been functioning smoothly, with over 350,000 tons of bypass water and about 500,000 tons of subdrain water released so far. The participation of third-parties in the monitoring has been the key to gaining trust in the measurements.

TEPCO – Water Discharge Criteria for Groundwater Bypass, February 3, 2014

TEPCO – Groundwater pump-up by Subdrain or Groundwater drain

WE’VE BEEN HERE BEFORE

The tritium in the tanks at Daiichi is much more radioactive than the subdrain or bypass water, however. The concentration levels of tritium in the tanks ranges from about 0.5 to 4 million Bq/L, a total of about 0.76 PBq (trillion Bq) in all. No decision has been made about how much is likely to be released per day, but technical and cost estimates have been based on 400 cubic meters (tons) per day, roughly equal to the maximum daily inflow of groundwater. It is expected that releases would continue for about five years. Under the scenarios being discussed, the water would be diluted to 60,000 Bq/L before being released to the ocean. This number alone seems alarming, but is the concentration level that has been legally allowed to be released from Japanese nuclear power plants and reprocessing facilities such as Tokaimura for decades. The science regarding what is likely to happen to the tritium in terms of dispersal by ocean currents and effects on fish and other biota is fairly well understood, primarily because of decades of monitoring done in Japan and near similar facilities abroad, such as Sellafield in the UK and LaHague in France. Data from the French government shows that the LaHague reprocessing plant releases about 12PBq (12 trillion Bq) per year, and the maximum concentration of tritium in the surrounding ocean has been about 7Bq/L. This means that the amount released yearly from LaHague is over 12 times the total being stored at Daiichi, and the daily release rate is over 20,000 times that expected in Fukushima. Dr. Jota Kanda, a professor at the Department of Ocean Sciences, Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology, observed that the dispersal and further dilution of tritium is rapid, and says, “Based on what we’ve seen at La Hague, it seems likely that under the ocean release scenario being considered now, tritium concentrations in the ocean off Fukushima will not exceed a few Bq/L and will likely remain close to the background level.” Globally, the background levels of tritium in water currently range between 1 and 4 Bq/L, which includes 0.1 to 0.6 Bq/L that is naturally-occurring and more than doubled by tritium remaining from nuclear testing. In oceans, tritium concentration levels at the surface are around 0.1 to 0.2 Bq/L. For comparison, naturally occurring tritium in rainwater in Japan between 1980-1995 was between 0.5- 1.5 Bq/L, and prior to 2011 in Fukushima rivers and tap water was generally between 0.5-1.5 Bq/L. In the US, the EPA standard for tritium in drinking water is 740 Bq/liter, while the EU imposes a limit of 100Bq/L.

Fujita et al, Environmental Tritium in the Vicinity of Tokai Reprocessing Plant. Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 44:11, 1474-1480

Matsuura, et al, Levels of tritium concentration in the environmental samples around JAERI TOKAI. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, Articles, Vol. 197, No. 2 (1995)295-307

METI Task Force Report supplement: About the physical properties of tritium,
Yamanishi Toshihiko, 2013

LaHague tritium release data, cited in METI Task Force Report supplement, p6

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII): A survey of tritium in Irish seawater, July 2013

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

Michio Aoyama: Long-term behavior of 137Cs and 3H activities from TEPCO Fukushima NPP1 accident in the coastal region off Fukushima, Japan. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry, 2018

Tsumune et al: Distribution of oceanic 137Cs from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant simulated numerically by a regional ocean model. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 111 (2012) 100-108

Povinec, et al, Cesium, iodine and tritium in NW Pacific waters – a comparison of the Fukushima impact with global fallout. Biogeosciences Discuss., 10, 6377–6416, 2013

Dr. Kanda further explains that biological organisms such as fish have different concentration factors for different radionuclides. When the ambient level of Cs137 in seawater is 1 Bq/L, for instance, some fish species may show values approaching 100 Bq/kg. But for tritium (H3) the ratio is 1:1, and 1 Bq/L in seawater will result in 1Bq/kg in fish. Again, at La Hague, which has had a much higher release of tritium for decades, the concentrations in marine wildlife near the point of release between 1997-2006 has ranged from 4.0 – 19.0 Bq/kg, with a mean of 11.1 Bq/kg. Using this as a guideline, Kanda estimates that even with an ongoing release of 60,000 Bq/L of tritium offshore of Daiichi, the fish a short distance away are unlikely to exceed 1 Bq/kg. This can, and must be, confirmed by conscientious monitoring.

What about health effects to humans? Though the release from Daiichi would be many times smaller than what is ongoing from LaHague or Sellafield, and the levels in the ocean after release seem likely to be close to that in normal rivers and rainwater, it is understandable that people would be concerned about risk. The scientific consensus is that tritium presents a much lower risk than radionuclides such as radioactive cesium, radioactive iodine, or strontium. This is reflected in allowable limits in drinking water which are generally tens or hundreds of times higher for tritium than for these others, ranging from 100 Bq/L in the European Union, 740 Bq/L in the US, 7000 Bq/L in Canada, 30,000 Bq/L in Finland, and 76,103 Bq/L in Australia. The WHO limit for tritium in drinking water is 10,000 Bq/L. Allowable limits in food have in most cases not been established. While these limits reflect a general scientific consensus that tritium presents a very low risk, the wide range of official values suggests scientific uncertainty about how it actually affects the human body.

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC): Standards and Guidelines for Tritium in Drinking Water, 2008

SCIENTIFIC UNCERTAINTY

Because in its most common form, known as HTO, tritiated water behaves almost identically to water, it is eliminated from the human body with a biological half-life of 10 days, the same as for water. But when it is incorporated into living things or organic matter, a fraction of it binds with organic molecules to become organically bound tritium, known as OBT. In this form it can stay in the body for years, and its risks, while assumed to be fairly low, are not fully understood. Dr. Ian Fairlie, a UK-based researcher who has published widely on the risks of tritium exposure, believes that current guidelines underestimate the nuclide’s true risk. Fairlie points out that there is a long-running controversy among experts regarding the risks of OBT, which many believe are higher than official guidelines currently recognize. Many official agencies, like France’s IRSN, have issued reports that recognize these uncertainties, and Fairlie believes that the research findings indicate that the dose from OBT should be increased by a factor of 5 compared to HTO.

Fairlie: Tritium: Comments on Annex C of UNSCEAR 2016 Report, March 14, 2017

IRSN factsheet: Tritium and the environment

In the ocean release scenarios being considered in Fukushima, Fairlie agrees that there will be high levels of dilution. Nevertheless, as the tritium disperses, he says, “It will be found throughout the entire ocean food chain.” The ICRP suggests that 3% of the tritium metabolized from water by marine life becomes potentially riskier OBT, while the IAEA estimates the fraction at 50%. IRSN and others caution that the biological exchange of tritium and other aspects of its action in organisms, such as the effects of exposure on embryos and foetuses, is incomplete. The METI Tritiated Water Task Force report of June 2016 explains that, “When standard values pertaining to radioactive material in food were established [in Japan] in 2012, it was concluded that “it is difficult to conceive of the concentration of tritium in food reaching a dose that would require attention.” This must not be assumed to be the case. Any estimate of risks to humans from tritium exposure should take the uncertainties as well as the possibility of higher risk from OBT fully into account. That said, the roughly 1Bq/kg maximum expected by experts to be found in fish off Fukushima after release is roughly from 100 to 70,000 times lower than drinking water limits around the world. Assuming that 3%-50% of that 1 Bq/kg is OBT, with a potentially higher risk factor, the human exposure risks from this scenario nevertheless appear to be extremely low, close to those of normal background radiation. The Japanese Gov’t is arguing that it is negligible.

FUKUSHIMA FISHERIES COOPS

TEPCO, METI, and other government bodies which share the mandate for dealing with contaminated water from Fukushima Daiichi believe there is no scientific reason to prevent releasing the tritiated water into the Pacific. For them, the largest stumbling bock is the lack of approval from the Fukushima fisheries cooperatives. As described above, these coops agreed to other releases of treated water from Daiichi as long as it’s compliance with safety regulations could be independently confirmed. Since the science indicates similarly minimal risk from releasing the water from the tanks after considerable dilution, what is their objection now? “We are totally opposed to the planned release,” explained Mr Takaaki Sawada of the Iwaki Office of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations, known as FS Gyoren. “It’s not a question of money or compensation,” he continued, “nor of any level of concentration we might accept as safe. There aren’t any conditions we would set, saying ‘If you satisfy these conditions then we will agree.’ We do not think it should be our responsibility to decide whether or not to release it. That entire discussion is inappropriate.”

Over the course of our long conversation, Sawada frankly acknowledged that the scientific consensus indicates very low risk if the water is released. “It’s not a question of scientific understanding,” he said. “We understand that tritiated water is released from other nuclear power plants in Japan and around the world. But we think it will be impossible for the public in general to understand why tritium is considered low risk, and expect there will be a large new backlash against Fukushima marine products no matter how scientifically it is explained.” I pointed out that the coops agreed to the release of the subdrain and bypass water from Daiichi, and asked what was different about this. He pointed out that in those cases, the water is pumped out before it is contaminated, and the public seems to understand that the contamination levels are already very low.

Fisheries coops, or kumai, are organized at each fishing port, of which there are 14 in Fukushima, only 2 of which, in Soma and Iwaki, are now operating commercially. The Fukushima coops have a total of about 1400 members at present. FS Gyoren is a prefectural federation, or rengo kumiai, that exists to facilitate communication and cooperation among the individual coops. There is a national rengo kumiai as well, called Zengyoren. These are not companies, and are not top-down organizations. Rather, each local port kumiai maintains independence. And though in meetings with Tepco or the government FS Gyoren communicates the concerns of members based on the kumai’s own meetings, no real full consensus has been reached regarding the proposed releases. It is a difficult situation with many possibilities for dissatisfaction and dissent. As an outside observer, I expected that some trust-building conditions, such as more transparent and conscientious monitoring, or further limits to the concentration and quantities released, could be satisfied which would allow the coops to agree to the ocean discharge. But now I think they won’t budge, particularly after TEPCO chairman Kawamura’s surprise announcement last summer that the decision had already been made without their approval. The kumiai will, I think, force the decision to be made against their strong opposition. I think they’re right that Japanese society is primed for a large backlash against Fukushima seafood no matter what the science and measurement shows.

Azby Brown

Azby Brown is Safecast’s lead researcher and primary author of the Safecast Report. A widely published authority in the fields of design, architecture, and the environment, he has lived in Japan for over 30 years, and founded the KIT Future Design Institute in 2003. He joined Safecast in mid-2011, and frequently represents the group at international expert conferences.

https://blog.safecast.org/2018/06/part-1-radioactive-water-at-fukushima-daiichi-what-should-be-done/

Experts: Fukushima Must Do More to Reduce Radioactive Water

March 7, 2018
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
A group of experts has concluded that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
 
www.usnews.com.jpg
In this Nov. 12, 2014, file photo, workers wearing protective gears stand outside Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant’s reactor in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan.
A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday, March 7, 2018 that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
 
TOKYO (AP) — A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., says the ice wall has helped reduce the radioactive water by half. The plant also pumps out several times as much groundwater before it reaches the tsunami-damaged reactors via a conventional drainage system using dozens of wells dug around the area.
The groundwater mixes with radioactive water leaking from the damaged reactors.
The panel agreed Wednesday that the ice wall helps, but said it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Panel members suggested that additional measures be taken to minimize the inflow of rainwater and groundwater, such as repairing roofs and other damaged parts of the buildings.
The 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) coolant-filled underground structure was installed around the wrecked reactor buildings to create a frozen soil barrier and keep groundwater from flowing into the heavily radioactive area. The ice wall has been activated in phases since 2016. Frozen barriers around the reactor buildings are now deemed complete.
On Wednesday, TEPCO said the amount of contaminated water that collects inside the reactor buildings was reduced to 95 metric tons per day with the ice wall, compared to nearly 200 tons without one. That is part of the 500 tons of contaminated water created every day at the plant, and the other 300 tons were pumped out via wells, treated and stored in tanks.
In addition to the 35 billion yen ($320 million) construction cost funded by taxpayers’ money, the ice wall needs more than 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) annually in operating and maintenance costs. Critics have been skeptical about the ice wall and suggested that the greater use of wells — a standard groundwater drainage system — would be a cheaper and more proven option.
The plant has been struggling with the ever-growing water — only slightly contaminated after treatment — now totaling 1 million tons and stored in 1,000 tanks, which take up significant space at the complex, where a decades-long decommissioning effort continues. Officials say they aim to further reduce the amount of contaminated water in the reactor buildings before starting to remove melted fuel in 2021.

 

Regulator urges release of treated Fukushima radioactive water into sea

11 jan 2018 tritium water release pacific NRA.jpg
 
The chief of Japan’s nuclear regulator said Thursday water at the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that contains radioactive tritium even after being treated should be released into the sea after dilution.
“We will face a new challenge if a decision (about the release) is not made within this year,” Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told a local mayor, referring to the more than 1 million tons of coolant water and groundwater that has accumulated at the facility crippled by the 2011 disaster triggered by a devastating quake and tsunami.
As local fishermen are worried about the negative impact from the water discharge, the Japanese government and Fukushima plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. have not made a final decision on the treated water, which is currently stored in tanks.
In his meeting with Yukiei Matsumoto, mayor of Naraha town near the Fukushima plant, Fuketa said, “It is scientifically clear that there will be no influence to marine products or to the environment” following the water release.
The nuclear regulator chief underlined the need for the government and Tepco to quickly make a decision, saying, “It will take two or three years to prepare for the water release into the sea.”
At the Fukushima plant, toxic water is building up partly because groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings to mix with water made radioactive in the process of cooling the damaged reactors.
Such contaminated water is treated to remove radioactive materials but tritium, a radioactive substance considered relatively harmless to humans, remains in the filtered water as it is difficult to separate even after passing through a treatment process.
At other nuclear power plants, tritium-containing water is routinely dumped into the sea after it is diluted. The regulator has been calling for the release of the water after diluting it to a density lower than standards set by law.
With limited storage space for water tanks, observers warn tritium could start leaking from the Fukushima plant.
On March 11, 2011, tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, located on ground 10 meters above sea level, and flooded the power supply facilities.
Reactor cooling systems were crippled and the Nos. 1 to 3 reactors suffered fuel meltdowns in the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

TEPCO Urged to Cut Radioactive Water inside Fukushima N-Plant

feb 2016

 

 

Tokyo, July 19 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority on Tuesday instructed Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.  to reduce the amount of highly radioactive water inside reactor buildings at its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.


The nuclear watchdog also demanded TEPCO lower the water’s radiation levels and consider substantially boosting the number of water storage tanks at the plant in order to lower the risk of the contaminated water leaking out.


Currently, there are tanks only enough to store contaminated water being generated every day mainly due to inflows of groundwater.


Meanwhile, the highly radioactive water inside the No. 1 to No. 4 reactor buildings totaled some 61,600 tons as of Thursday. A lot of tanks would need to be built in order to remove the contaminated water from the buildings.


The highly radioactive water may leak out if tsunami hits the plant again, Toyoshi Fuketa, acting head of the NRA, said, demanding cuts in the amount of the water.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/i?g=eco&k=2016071900531

Download Radioactive water may still be entering tunnels

Nov 13 2014

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant faces another challenge in its effort to address radioactive water at the complex.

It says highly contaminated water may still be flowing from reactor buildings into adjacent underground tunnels even after a work to stem the flow ended.

The water in the tunnels is believed to be leaking into the sea. Tokyo Electric Power Company plans to pump the tainted water out of the tunnels and fill them with cement.

To prepare for the process, the firm began work in April to stem the flow of radioactive water between the reactor buildings and the tunnels. It involved freezing some of the water as well as plugging the gaps with filler materials.

TEPCO finished the work on November 6th. But workers found that water levels in the reactor buildings and the tunnels are still linked. They note this suggests that the flow of radioactive water between them may not have been stopped.

TEPCO officials say that if the situation doesn’t improve, they may start filling the tunnels with cement even before they finish removing contaminated water.

Source: NHK

http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20141114_05.html

ANALYSIS: TEPCO behind schedule to eliminate contaminated water despite extra measures

radioactive water processing oct 14 2014

October 17, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s goal of purifying all highly radioactive water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant by the end of the fiscal year has proven to be increasingly difficult, despite additional steps implemented by the utility.On Oct. 16, TEPCO demonstrated its contaminated water processing facilities that were newly introduced this fall.

The additional multi-nuclide removal equipment ALPS (advanced liquid processing system), which was installed to help make up for lost time after delays in the utility’s contaminated water processing plan, has so far been working as expected since it started trial operations in September, according to TEPCO.

In the water purifying process, cesium is first removed from the water. Then 62 additional radioactive substances, including strontium, are eliminated using ALPS. The first units of ALPS were set up in March last year.

As of Oct. 14, 355,000 tons of highly radioactive water from which just cesium has been removed is stored in tanks on the plant site.

To reduce risks in the event of contaminated water leaks from the storage tanks, TEPCO also plans to begin operations of an improved version of ALPS in the near future.

Thanks to the newly set up ALPS units and the improved model to be introduced, it is estimated that the radioactive water processing ability of the plant will rise from the current maximum of 750 tons per day to 1,960 tons, according to TEPCO.

improved version of ALPS oct 16 2014 The improved version of ALPS (advanced liquid processing system) is seen on Oct. 16

 at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

But many problems have been reported with ALPS since it first became operational, repeatedly forcing the plant operator to halt its operations. The utilization rate for the system between January and August was just 35 to 61 percent.

Although TEPCO replaced some components of ALPS with improved parts, problems occurred with some replaced components in late September, forcing the utility to suspend operations of some units of the system.

Whereas TEPCO has set a goal of completing the purification of all highly radioactive water stored on site, it would still be difficult to achieve that goal even if TEPCO could operate all the processing systems day and night.

According to a TEPCO estimate made in February, the amount of highly contaminated water should have been reduced to 300,000 tons by about now, but the water cleaning procedure is currently a month behind the original schedule.

To make up for lost time after delays in its water processing plan, TEPCO has worked out a series of additional countermeasures.

Earlier this month, TEPCO introduced new mobile equipment that can eliminate strontium from 300 tons of water a day. The company also announced Oct. 16 that it will start operations by the end of the year of an additional strontium removal system with a daily processing capability of 500 to 900 tons.

Although the water treated with those strontium removal systems alone still needs to be processed with ALPS to eliminate additional radioactive substances, TEPCO officials said the company will temporarily deem such water as being “purified” to achieve its initial goal of completing the processing work by the end of the fiscal year.

Another problem is that the influx of groundwater into reactor buildings is adding 400 tons of highly radioactive water a day.

In June, TEPCO began construction of a 1,500-meter frozen soil wall that will surround the basements of the reactor buildings. The utility intends to start the soil freezing procedure next spring after draining all the radioactive water accumulating in trenches around the reactors.

TEPCO originally planned to drain all 11,000 tons of contaminated water in the trenches, which are directly connected to the reactor buildings, and fill them in by June. But the planned procedures have yet to be completed.

As the trench water draining operation is behind schedule, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has called on TEPCO to seek an alternative way to fill in the trenches as soon as possible.

Whether to use another method or continue the current draining procedure is expected to be determined in early November. To start soil freezing operations next spring, the trenches have to be filled in by January, TEPCO said.

In May, the plant operator began releasing groundwater into the ocean pumped from wells on the mountain side of the nuclear plant before the groundwater can reach the reactor buildings and become contaminated.

Although TEPCO insists that its various countermeasures, including the underground water bypass project, have succeeded in reducing the influx of groundwater by up to 130 tons daily, the estimate lacks a solid basis.

The utility is also considering releasing contaminated underground water accumulating near the reactor buildings into the Pacific after purifying it, but it remains unclear when the company will be able to carry out the plan.

(This article was written by Tsuyoshi Nagano and Hiromi Kumai.)

Source: Asahi Shimbun

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201410170042