RUNNING OUT OF SPACE TO STORE NON-ENDING AMOUNT OF CONTAMINATED WATER.
THEIR PROPOSAL: DILUTE IT AND DUMP IT INTO THE SEA!!!
This Japan Times report explains in clear English the mechanics behind the ongoing efforts to deal with the apparently unfixable Fukushima nuclear disaster. Here are excerpts from that report.
Why is radioactive water accumulating and how much is there?
As of May 7, Tepco had routed 290,000 tons of radioactive water into huge tanks at the complex, but 94,500 tons remain inside the basement floors of the reactor buildings and other facilities.
Tepco must perpetually pour water over the melted cores of reactors to prevent the fuel from melting and burning again.
But the cores’ containment vessels were damaged by the meltdowns, allowing the highly radioactive coolant water to leak and flow into the basements.
The dangerous radiation levels have prevented workers from getting close enough to fully assess the damage, let alone start the decommissioning process.
Compounding the problem is some 400 tons of groundwater that is also entering the basements of the tsunami- and explosion-damaged buildings, mixing with the leaking coolant water.
Tepco has been operating a water-recycling system to drain the basements that is supposed to extract cesium before recirculating the water back to the reactors. But the added inflow of the groundwater is exacerbating the threat.
In response, all Tepco has been able to do is build more storage tanks.
What problems will the water eventually pose?
Tepco says there is a limit to how many tanks the complex can accommodate before the site runs out of storage space.
Tepco is proposing some of the water be dumped into the sea after processing it to remove most, but not all, radioactive isotopes. Local fishermen strongly oppose the plan as it will taint the image of their produce.
Previous discharges into the Pacific have effectively contaminated the sea. Failure to store it means it will probably flood the whole compound and end up in the ocean anyway.
Neither Tepco nor government experts have come up with any other viable solutions.
Will the processed water pose health or environmental risks?
According to Tepco, the processed water could theoretically be safe, but fishermen and consumers disagree.
Tepco says the tritium level in the contaminated water is between 1 million and 5 million becquerels per liter. The legal limit is 60,000.
Tepco thus wants to dilute the water to bring the tritium density below the legal limit by dumping it into the sea.
Tritium, a common hazard at nuclear plants, can increase the risk of cancer if ingested and has a half life of 12.3 years. It is about 1,000th as radioactive as cesium-134 and -137.
Are there other concerns over water-related facilities?
Tepco revealed on April 5 that radioactive water stored in makeshift cisterns with coamings and surface covers were leaking into the soil.
This forced the utility to stop using the reservoirs, which were basically lined trenches with lids, and pump some 24,000 tons of tainted water out of them and into aboveground tanks.
The transfer is expected to be finished later this month.