Clusterfukashima: This is really bad
Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an "emergency" that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country's nuclear watchdog said on Monday.
This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.
Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co are only a temporary solution, he said.
Tepco's "sense of crisis is weak," Kinjo said. "This is why you can't just leave it up to Tepco alone" to grapple with the ongoing disaster.
"Right now, we have an emergency," he said. ...
Contaminated water could rise to the ground's surface within three weeks, the Asahi Shimbun said on Saturday. Kinjo said the three-week timeline was not based on NRA's calculations but acknowledged that if the water reaches the surface, "it would flow extremely fast."
A Tepco official said on Monday the company plans to start pumping out a further 100 metric tons of groundwater a day around the end of the week.
The regulatory task force overseeing accident measures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, which met Friday, "concluded that new measures are needed to stop the water from flowing into the sea that way," Kinjo said.
The immediate concern is radioactive water seeping along the seaward side of the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors and spilling into the sea.
TEPCO is currently solidifying soil with chemicals near a levee to prepare the ground for the walls.
But as work has progressed, the water level in observation wells has risen sharply to about 1 meter from the ground’s surface, apparently due to the accumulation of groundwater blocked from the ocean.
Due to limitations in construction methods, the walls can only be built with their tops at 1.8 meters beneath the surface. That means the water levels in the observation wells have already risen above the top edges.
If such a situation continues, the completed barriers will be unable to prevent the water from reaching the ocean. In addition, calculations show that if the water levels continue to rise at the current pace, contaminated water will flood the surface in about three weeks.
One huge problem facing TEPCO in dealing with the water is the maze of pits constructed beneath the Fukushima No. 1 plant site for pipes and power cables.
Immediately after the nuclear accident started in March 2011, an estimated 11,000 tons of highly radioactive water spilled into the pits under the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors. Some of that water is believed to have leaked further underground from cracks in the pits caused by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The reactor buildings are still connected to the pits, making it difficult to shut off the flow of water that becomes contaminated in the cooling process of the melted nuclear fuel that remains in the reactors.
A working group of the NRA held its first meeting on Aug. 2 regarding the leaking of contaminated water at the Fukushima plant.
The nuclear watchdog raised concerns that TEPCO’s plan to construct walls to block the leakage would be insufficient, and proposed pumping up the contaminated groundwater.
However, a TEPCO official said installing a pump would have to wait until late August because of the continuing construction work on the walls.
According to one calculation, about 100 tons of groundwater would have to be pumped up daily to prevent the water from leaking into the ocean. But the plant is running out of storage space for the contaminated water.
TEPCO officials remain confident that the completion of the walls in October will alleviate the water problem.
Yikes. Maybe we could swap managements with the Japanese. The NSA could run Fukushima, and TEPCO could run that data center in Utah. We could hardly do worse.