Fukushima – Three Mile Island – The Long Road Ahead

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Members from the Osaka Prefectural Government held the talks to discuss rules for processing possible shipments of March 11 tsunami debris from the Tohoku region, including how to deal with radioactive materials if detected in the rubble. Residents in the audience, however, soon disrupted proceedings, after not being allowed to attend.


“You should launch an open debate forum,” “Are you planning on exposing us to radiation?” angry residents called out, followed by loud applause from the audience.



Japan‘s Diet has launched a panel of experts including a former chairman of the Science Council of Japan, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who was named the chair, and Nobel chemistry laureate Koichi Tanaka, to investigate the cause of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

Unlike a separate government panel investigating the same accident, the Diet panel will basically open its meetings to the public, and be focused on trying to conduct a thorough investigation for the public..

It can demand the right to investigate state affairs, summon officials from the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company and compel them to submit data.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday it is considering releasing into the Pacific Ocean low-level radioactive water now stored in tanks at the premises of its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant as storage capacity may run short by next March.

TEPCO has not only accidentally released highly radioactive water into the sea after the nuclear crisis, but also intentionally dumped low level radioactive water as an emergency measure in April, drawing concerns from neighboring countries.

In another accidental case, TEPCO said Tuesday that around 150 liters of processed water has flowed into the sea. The water is estimated to contain strontium, it said.

The plant has been plagued with highly radioactive water accumulating inside reactor turbine buildings as a result of the continuing injection of water to cool the stricken Nos. 1 to 3 reactors.

But as about 200 to 500 tons of groundwater a day flows into the reactor turbine buildings, the amount of water that is processed has exceeded that needed for injection into the reactors, according to TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto.


“We cannot keep on increasing the number of tanks in the next year or two. So we’re considering the possibility of releasing water into the sea,” Matsumoto told a press conference.



The plant operator known as TEPCO said the water would be released only after it clears the country’s legal concentration limit of radioactive substances, including cesium and strontium.

Nobutaka Tsutsui, senior vice minister for agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said at a press conference he cannot approve of the plan.

He said he has already asked Tadahiro Matsushita, senior vice minister for economy, trade and industry which oversees the nuclear industry, to reconsider the TEPCO plan and will work on relevant parties to prevent TEPCO from implementing the plan.

Lessons learned from the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the United States are playing a serious role in the handling of the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to a Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) scientist.

The biggest difference between the two disasters is the Three Mile Island meltdown was just one reactor, att Fukushima, three reactors melted down, while the No. 4 reactor was also severely damaged.

Making matters more complicated, the melted fuel in the No. 1 reactor began to eat into the concrete floor of the containment vessel. 

The situation at the plant is far more serious than it was at Three Mile Island, as the pressure vessels of the Fukushima No. 1-3 reactors were destroyed.

“We are putting the experience we gained from the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 to use,” Fumihisa Nagase, who heads the agency’s nuclear fuel safety research group, told the Mainichi. The JAEA is the only organization in Japan that has samples of melted fuel from the Three Mile Island nuclear station in Pennsylvania.

Using the roughly 60 small pieces of fuel from Three Mile Island, which is sealed in an aluminum container and weighing about 2.8 kilograms, now sits in a 15-meter-deep pool at the JAEA headquarters in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, Nagase and his team will increase research on how to dispose of the melted fuel at the Fukushima plant.

The fuel from Three Mile Island arrived in Japan in 1991 through an international research project run by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. R.

The uranium fuel got mixed together with the zirconium oxide of its casing during the meltdown, and the pieces now look like chunks of hardened lava.

Artists rendering of Three Mile Island

In the Three Mile Island disaster, about 62 metric tons or 45 percent of the fuel in one reactor melted down. Of that, some 20 tons pooled at the bottom of the pressure vessel in a layer as thick as a meter. Workers didn’t enter the pressure vessel until a year after the accident, and the fuel removal operation wasn’t finished until 1990.

“I don’t think all the reactors can be decommissioned simultaneously,” says Yuichi Hayase, a member of an expert committee on the Fukushima disaster and an advisor to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.



Roger Shaw, former director of radiation protection at the Three Mile Island plant, has warned those handling the Fukushima disaster to expect the unexpected. Shaw told the Mainichi that in 1979, when Three Mile Island workers got a camera into the pressure vessel, they couldn’t see anything because so many microbes had bred inside.

He furthermore said that resolving the Fukushima crisis will be many times more difficult that the disaster he dealt with, adding that an unbelievable amount of effort and the best knowledge in the world would be needed.


In Japan, because previous supplementary books said in part that “Nuclear plants are designed to withstand major earthquakes and tsunami,” the ministry suspended the use of the educational materials at schools in the wake of the nuclear accident. The ministry decided to then produce new supplementary books.

The Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization (JAERO) won a contract from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology to produce supplementary books on radiation for school children before the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear complex on March 11. But the ministry did not change its decision to ask JAERO to produce the educational materials even after the nuclear disaster.

Toshio Nishizawa, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and other top executives of utility firms are JAERO’s board members. Critics say the selection of the group as a subcontractor for the contract is not appropriate in light of the situation gripped by the ongoing nuclear crisis in Fukushima.


Hideyuki Ban, a co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a non-profit organization in Tokyo, lashed out at the content of the supplementary books. “They highlighted coexistence with radiation. They treated radiation risks lightly.” On the subcontractor, he said, “I don’t think it reasonable for an organization that promotes nuclear power generation to be entrusted with the project. Soul-searching on the nuclear accident is lacking.”



Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

Source: NHK

Source: Mainichi

Source: Mainichi

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