Comment draws ire from Fukushima residents, fishermen and watchdog
Takashi Kawamura, a former Hitachi chairman, took up his current post just last month.
TOKYO — Comments by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings’ chairman about releasing nuclear wastewater into the ocean are being met with anger from fisheries groups and many others.
Tepco Chairman Takashi Kawamura told news outlets earlier this month that the utility “has made its decision” on the release of tritiated water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant to the ocean. Tritiated water is a radioactive form where the usual “light” hydrogen atoms are replaced with tritium.
Kyodo News reported the following day that the company shares the view of Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, that spilling the water into the sea would not cause any problem, scientifically speaking.
Tepco immediately released a statement saying Kawamura’s comments “did not intend to announce the concluded policy of the company on the matter.”
Nonetheless, the national cooperative of fishermen has protested. And rather unexpectedly, Tanaka criticized Kawamura for using his name to promote the company’s agenda. This is a worrying development for Tepco, since increased mistrust by the NRA could affect the utility’s medium- to long-term strategies, including restarting nuclear power plants.
Tritiated water is also released from normally functioning nuclear power plants. In Japan, water meeting official standards can be dumped into the sea.
But local residents have protested the idea, out of concern that rumors and misunderstandings could damage their community. At the Industry Ministry, a special committee has been considering the matter. Kawamura’s remarks were seen as getting ahead of that process, hence the backlash.
The wastewater in question still sits inside a number of storage tanks at the Fukushima power plant, with nowhere to go. Tepco and the government want to find a solution quickly, but the latest controversy shows that skipping careful and thoughtful communication with various stakeholders could end up costing them more time.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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 ?
The 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.