Nukewatch Quarterly Spring 2022
By Robert Hunziker
The cooling water continuously poured over the reactors’ creakily dilapidated ruins turns radioactive, almost instantaneously, and must be processed via the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), intended to remove most radioactive materials….
Here’s the big new danger: As ALPS processes radioactively contaminated water, it flushes out a “slurry” of highly concentrated radioactive material….
How to handle and dispose of the radioactive slurry may be an impossible quagmire, and a big one, since the storage containers for the tainted slurry quickly degrade because of the high concentration of radioactive, caustic, corrosive chemicals in the material. The storage containers, in turn, have to be regularly replaced as the slurry’s caustics eats away at the containers’ liners.
Radioactive slurry is muddy and resembles a shampoo in appearance, and it contains highly radioactive strontium readings that reach tens of millions of Becquerels per-cubic-centimeter. However, according to the EPA 148 Becquerels per-cubic-meter, not centimeter, is the allowable level for human exposure. Thus, Becquerels in the tens of millions per-cubic-centimeter is “off the charts” dangerous….
Since March 2013, Tepco has accumulated 3,373 special vessels that hold these highly toxic radioactive slurry concentrations. But, because the integrity of the vessels deteriorates so quickly, the durability of the containers reaches a limit, meaning the vessels will need replacement by mid-2025.
Transferring this slurry is a time-consuming, highly dangerous, even horrific job, which creates yet a second series of unacceptable risks of radioactive substances released into the air during transfer of slurry. Tepco expects to open and close the transfers “remotely” (using robots). But as of January 2, 2022, Tepco had not yet revealed acceptable plans for dealing with the necessary transfer of slurry from weakening, almost deteriorated containers, into fresh, new containers. (“Tepco Slow to Respond to Growing Crisis at Fukushima Plant,” The Asahi Shimbun, January 2, 2022)
— Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles. This is an excerpt from a longer piece at Counterpunch, Jan. 10, 2022.