Current Challenges & Progress At Fukushima Daiichi
TEPCO’s testing of the ALPS system intended to remove all contamination except tritium continues but now it is not expected to be out of the testing phase until fall 2013 at the earliest. TEPCO also admitted that the system is not completely removing contaminants as expected and the radiation levels around the equipment was rising. Right now neither issue was halting work but could become a problem over time if not resolved.
This throws a huge problem into the contaminated water problems. TEPCO currently has no plan do deal with this issue. They have begun building more tanks on site and still hope to use the groundwater bypass system but that has not been approved or fully implemented. The radiation increases around ALPS could cause a bigger problem down the road if the system becomes a high radiation area. This would restrict access and make repairs dangerous.
ALPS is expected to generate 812 HIC containers per year if it reaches full operation. These are the containers that hold the extracted radioactive contamination. The containers are handled as high level waste similar to spent fuel casks. The space needed to store them is considerable. They must be stored in concrete boxes similar to fuel casks and have the radiation controlled. So not only will ALPS generate tons of water that will still contain tritium that may need on site storage, it will generate a huge volume of high level waste containers. This may be the best solution for now to work towards some sort of control of the disaster. It comes with more massive challenges.
TEPCO has admitted the concrete slab they poured inside the plastic sheet liners of the ponds may have broken and caused the leaking of the ponds. A drain line pipe in a gravel filled trench is cited as a possible location where the concrete may have broken and caused failure in the pond liners. The pipe and trench appear to be a system to divert away ground water. If it can divert groundwater it can divert leaking contaminated water.
Contamination levels near the leaking ponds has been rising. TEPCO cited part of the problem as being a mistake made when workers reused a plastic sample bottle. The bottle may have had enough residual contamination to make the new samples read higher than they should have. This raises questions about the radiation protection standards and processes used at the plant and also the processes in the chemistry lab that allowed this to happen. TEPCO seems to be floundering in all areas.
An alarm went off at the new fuel cask storage facility at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO reports that they didn’t find anything wrong with any of the casks.
A report on the groundwater bypass system was released in English. TEPCO still plans to eventually release this water to the sea even though small amounts of cesium and tritium have shown up in tests.
TEPCO released two recent radiation maps of the plant grounds. Levels are lower than earlier maps. This could be explained by debris clean up, covering more of the plant grounds with steel sheet to shield the radiation, isotope decay, contamination sinking into the soil or being washed away with rainwater. April 3rd Map, April 26 Map
Progress has continued on the cover building for unit 4. They are now installing the cantilever area of the building and some sections have had the steel walls installed. We captured an image this week of work on the structure. Notice the large strap being used to hold a portion of the cantilever as they progress in the installation.
TEPCO also reported they lost 7 billion dollars (USD) in the last fiscal year. They blamed a combination of having to replace existing energy infrastructure and the mountain of compensation payments and lawsuits. The largest compensation costs are still to come as most have not received final compensation settlements for losses on homes and businesses.
All of this is an immense problem that may result in sea dumping of contaminated water. The amount of contamination that could end up released to the sea is hard to estimate. With contamination in certain fish in the region continuing to go up and contamination flowing across the Pacific, adding to this problem could have serious implications. Anyone telling you Fukushima is “over” is either ill informed or dishonest.
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