Japanese government pledges to support TEPCO clean up Fukushima Daiichi groundwater contamination

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According to an official from Tokyo Electric, it has been estimated that some 400 tons of contaminated water breaches underground barriers and continues leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, but the utility cannot confirm the exact volume of contaminated groundwater that is escaping.  The utility has also not acknowledged the source of the contamination, but has released reports which assume all of the water is contaminated, which has continued fueling speculation.

TEPCO has estimated that rising water levels in the underground passages beneath the reactor buildings could reach the surface within weeks after breaching an underground barrier put in place by the utility.  The utility has also admitted that it has failed to respond effectively enough to groundwater contamination issues because it has been focusing on cooling the melted nuclear fuel in the damaged reactors.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised to increase the central governments’ efforts to mitigate the contaminated water escaping from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific Ocean and tapped the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi as the official in charge of the situation.

“It is an urgent problem,” Abe said. “We will not leave this to Tepco, but put together a government strategy. We will direct Tepco to make sure there is a swift and multi-faceted approach in place.”  Abe also asked the Nuclear Regulation Authority to come up with effective measures.

Tatsuya Shinkawa, a director in METI’s Nuclear Accident Response Office, told reporters the government believed highly contaminated water had been leaking for two years.

The ministry official said that the Japanese government plans to reduce the leak to some 60 tons per day by December, but did not provide any clear information that would back up those claims.  The Japanese central government said it would make more funds available to address the contaminated water flow and also work with TEPCO to pump out groundwater to reduce the leakage, but admitted that even removing the groundwater would not necessarily prevent the contaminated water from leaking into the ocean.

Source: Bloomberg

Source: Wall Street Journal

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12 Comments

  1. If the melted fuel is out of a plant into the ground, the ground water would have helped to cool it. To keep the fuel cool the ground water that they stop from flowing throw the plant would have to be replaced with something else wouldn’t it.

  2. TEPCO has admitted to 3 reactor core meltdowns at Fukushima. Now 2 and
    1/2 years later we are discussing 300+ tonnes water daily pumped into
    building with no floor and it is leaking into ground. When are we going
    to have discussion about CHINA SYNDROME which is causing measured spikes
    in radiation found in water, sea water and fish and kelp?

    TEPCO equals radiation from 3 reactor meltdowns. Do Tsunamis cause radiation?

    When will the imaging technique with muons be used to pin point the location of the melted fuel/reactors beneath the buildings.

    Will the location of the melted reactors be shared with the public or is this another shell game from TEPCO

    Do earthquakes cause radiation? This is a radioactive problem caused by reactor designs that were sold as fool proof. When the reactor core is melted there is no plan. There is no road map. There is only the truth that reactor safety is a lie. When will we begin to address the factsradiation caused by reactor meltdowns not Tsunami or Earth Quake?

    1. No one is disagreeing that the contamination is from the reactors. The reactor design isn’t the problem, nuclear power isn’t the problem, TEPCO is the problem here. TEPCO has always been the problem. The utility admitted to not taking further steps to prevent disasters because they feared acknowledging that the reactors weren’t as disaster proof as they could be would spout protests against nuclear power in Japan. TEPCO predicted a disaster like this in 2008 but didn’t feel the need to “take prompt action” on the estimates of the likelihood of a disaster of this magnitude.

      As a nuclear reactor operator, I can tell you reactor safety is absolutely not a lie. It is entirely possible to run a nuclear power plant under safe conditions all the time. The power plant I work at has been online for 26 years now with zero accidents. When are we going to address TEPCO’s role in this disaster? When are we going to address the fact that, had the utility and its employees responded promptly to this accident, much of this could have been prevented? When are we going to address the fact that this plant was willingly built on an active fault line (which TEPCO chose to deflect as a non-issue)? Or that, had the plant been pushed further back from the ocean like its sister plant, much of the effects of the earthquake and tsunami very well could have been mitigated without major incident? This is not a nuclear power problem. This is a government problem, this is a utility problem, this is a problem that has only become such from TEPCO’s failure to increase safety measures and properly train its employees. I assure you no nuclear reactor has been sold “as fool proof,” rather they are sold with the idea that those who are in control of them are properly trained to do so, and most certainly are.

      1. Sarah.
        When a reactor is in operation generation mode and there is a catastrophic power failure and the reactor can’t be shut down what happens? That is what happened to Fukushima. Yes there are redundant emergency backups to prevent a catastrophic power failure which is the only way to prevent a reactor meltdown. There were 3 reactor meltdowns at Fukushima. TEPCO owned and operated Fukushim. Sarah, you want to blame TEPCO. TEPCO did not design reactors but did operate and generate electricity with reactors. TEPCO is not responsible for reactor core meltdown. 3 reactor core meltdowns are enough evidence of failure for most people. Sarah, you agree that 3 reactors are in meltdown state. Once you accept the facts of the mater there is hope that you will eventually arive at the conclusion that Fukushima Reactor Design was flawed and what has happened was previously thought to be impossible by design engineers has happened.

  3. While I won’t disagree with what you say about the plant of which you have intimate knowledge, nor will I disagree that the problems of Fukushima range from poor, irresponsible engineering to bad maintenance to lackluster performance of management, I can’t accept that in all this there isn’t reflection upon the whole process. From the leaching of tailing piles at mine sites to permanent sequester of used materials, I’m personally uncomfortable. I’m happy that you work at a well managed site, but the world is a bit bigger and overall control a much bigger question despite your work and experience. Seems at that point, then, contentment has to come from settling for a mass of tiny scars rather than one big cut. I’m sorry, but to me it’s pretty ugly.

  4. Thank you Metal Worker, Beautiful thoughts exposing ugly consequences.
    Beautiful thoughts Metal Worker. Together we can change the world one by one by one.

  5. I have a new name for Muon imaging :Muon Electrical Light Technology. MELT.
    This is a new imaging technology that utilizes Muon energy rays to locate radioactive objects beneath the earth or sea or any where you want to look. Fukushima will utilize this MELT to show where the melted reactor cores are located. Has Elvis left the building is the immediate question. Will TEPCO create a shell game with the MELT results or disclose how far beneath the buildings the reactor cores are sinking and at what rate of sink?

  6. Personally, Christopher, I’m not sure that it matters where ‘Elvis’ is at the moment. The problem is that the water is such a good vehicle for the radioactivity, and that with the foundations compromised intentionally by design or from the movement of the earthquake, it’s not going to be gotten to for any remediation. While I’m not proposing that this is an extinction level event as some have, (please don’t think me callus and unconcerned; I’m hardly either) the problem is simply too great, the time for which some great effort could have been taken too short, and then that short time greatly compromised by the general damage even outside of the site from the tsunami. With the current revelations, I personally feel that the intent is a statement of something that they (Tepco, the equally incompetent and irresponsible government, and, lest we forget, the nuclear industry in general) had hoped wouldn’t happen yet should have known would happen, namely dilution of the material in some manner and form into the Pacific.(I’m of the opinion that it’s going to happen anyway, even if the dilution is atmospheric.) It’s the strategy used for much of the initial, less dangerous and transportable above-ground debris which they spread across the country to incinerate and dilute into the atmosphere. Seems to me that the current proposals of basically placing the site into a large bucket created by some kind of walls may be rather self-defeating also, as that will increase the radioactive concentration in what water they have within it and playing with general inaccessability if that concentration gets too high. (I’m breathing a great sigh as I write this.) My concern with the currently proposed stategy is impairment of any ability to maintain the spent-fuel pools with its mass of materials making the situation even worse. But anyway, at some point, the Pacific, and all above-ground water to some greater or lesser extent, is going to be the bucket that’s eventually used for dilution.They’re showing the world that they’ve made the effort to save some face (while I might wonder and think that the ‘world’ could have done much more to help accepted or not; hell, ‘the world’ is willing to impose poverty and suffering upon quite a great portion of some populations at great expense and effort) but the general thought is that dilution is a somewhat acceptable solution if for no other reason but the capacity to deal with the mass. I can’t see how that idea of dilution in some manner or form ever escaped anyone who comprehensively thought about this. We live in a bubble, don’t we, and life as we know it is possible because of the natural sequestration/dilution of radioactive materials? Once the siting and basic construction decisions were made, dilution was a done deal.

    I only hope that I’m wrong in my thinking. It’s been beyond time that we think of nuclear stategies and their failings as only design-level problems.

  7. The problem is TEPCO’S now but was caused by a group of designers that under estimated the cost of building the nuclear plants at Fuku… and convinced TEPCO to build the plant the way they did with out the proper safety because of the losses MONEY. After all TEPCO hired the group to design and build a safe Nuclear power plant for X dollars. From seeing the under estimated costs to build NPP by the contractors, did TEPCO say we will not pay more when the contracts asked for more money so they made changes to cut costs like lowering the height of the NPP to the sea. This lowering the site required a sea wall that if built to the height for known tsunamis would be very costly so built it to low. The group new that they also did not build the plants to survive the known earth quacks of the area. So how did TEPCO cause this, they have to fix the unfixable.

  8. Well, there are certainly easy targets in this particular incident, and Tepco qualifies as one, but I might think of many more, from the Japanese government that obviously approved construction in the manner that it took, to scientists whose own statistics tell them that there is going to be this sort of ‘accident’ per certain number of reactor hours, to general voting populations who allow themselves to be led by these individuals and disciplines. I myself, will shoulder some blame, not that I’m an engineer or had anything to do with nuclear decisions. I didn’t resist enough. What I have perceived long ago as a kid in my trade reading of the difficulties of fabrication and the complexities of these machines was a Faustian bargain. Nuclear power is an open-ended endeavor in human control (not a closed loop, of which we have nature and our personal lives as models) and will now default to nature to close the loop in this particular instance, amounting to loss of control of the harm which we allowed. The sad fact is that one doesn’t have to have intricate esoteric knowledge of any part or of the whole of the nuclear process. It can easily be reached intuitively. That seems to have taken place in regard to nuclear weapons, but, damn, we still have nuclear weapons and still allow recently entertained thought of using them. Who is responsible? We have created and tolerated the game in which the stakes have become as high as this. Begin some kind of list of the guilty, assign some measure of responsibility to each, but it extends to all who have some knowledge and stake in the game. I’m sorry that I feel this way and I’m certainly not looking to beat myself up about my personal complicity. I believe I’m just stating a fact. I’m willing to forgive myself and all others, if they’ll be willing to try to lower those stakes and deny the eternity of the hell that invariably is at the end of the bargain. One can disagree with my viewpoint, but it may even be quite a bit of hell in itself to have to consider this veiwpoint once it impacts one personally or those with personal connections that one loves. Myself, that is the only manner in which I can see moving positively and optimisticly forward

  9. My thoughts and experience also, I was skeptical but supported nuclear till Chernobyl and Fukushima when I read about the way these projects are handled from biding to final operation, the money that companies have at risk is scary because they may sacrifice safety to stop bleeding costs. They are also competing against other power sources so are building at a fixed top end sail price do to being competitive influencing safety etc.

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