Fall Quarterly 2018
Kyodo News reported Aug. 19 that the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco’s) water decontamination system is not removing all of the radioactive contaminants as the company previously claimed. Huge waste water tanks crowding the compound of the destroyed Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station have been found to contain dangerous, long-lived radioactive substances, defying Tepco’s special treatment system, Kyodo News said.
Tepco admitted that previously undisclosed radioactive isotopes in the treated water include iodine-129, ruthenium-106, and technetium-99. According to Tepco, a maximum of 62.2 becquerels-per-liter of iodine-129—seven times the 9 becquerels/L legal limit—was found in the water filtered by Tepco’s Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS). The ruthenium and technetium have radioactive half-lives of 373 days, and 213,000 years respectively.
Water samples taken from some of the large tanks showed exceedingly high levels of iodine-129 which has a radioactive half-life of 16 million years. Tepco has been trying to get permission to dump the contaminated waste water—920,000 tons—into the Pacific Ocean, claiming falsely it is contaminated only with tritium and trace amounts of other isotopes. Tepco’s property has 880 of the large, hastily built tanks and is running out of room for more.
The company’s admission of faulty water filtration has raised questions about what more is in the waste water that Tepco is so eager to dump. A government panel debating how to deal with the waste water has focused on the tritium. The ethics of dumping radioactive materials into an international body of water are often completely ignored.
A complete list of the radioactive isotopes in the treated waste water has not been disclosed by Tepco, and the company said it hasn’t checked the concentration of radioactive materials in each tank. ALPS has regularly been described by the company and media as being capable of removing everything but tritium.
Regional fishing groups have fought the dumping plan claiming it will ruin seafood sales and wreck their livelihoods.
The Fukushima-Daiichi reactor complex was devastated when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami caused a station blackout, shattered reactor foundations, wrecked backup generators used for cooling, and caused three reactors to suffer explosions and complete fuel meltdowns. Since then, tons of water are constantly poured into the reactor buildings to cover and cool three large masses of melted fuel, and it becomes extremely toxic and radioactive in the process. The water is filtered by the novel ALPS system, but removing the radioactive contaminants has so far proven to be unworkable.
—The Mainichi, Aug. 30; Kyodo, and Japan Times, Aug. 19, 2018