Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2020
In August 2018, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), admitted that the “Advanced Liquid Processing System” or ALPS filters had failed to remove deadly radioactive materials from waste cooling water, putting the lie to its repeated assurances that ALPS would remove everything but tritium—the radioactive form of hydrogen.
News services noted, “The tritium-tainted water piling up at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear [reactor site] has been found to contain other radioactive substances, defying the defunct plant’s special treatment system, Kyodo News has learned.”
Nine years since the disaster began, tons of cooling water are still constantly poured over the amassed (melted) uranium fuel underneath destroyed reactors 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima. Three mounds of thousands of tons hot, molten uranium fuel wreckage have to be cooled constantly to prevent new fires, explosions and major radiation releases.
Tepco told the public that iodine-129, ruthenium-106 and technetium-99 failed to be filtered by ALPS. Unlike the cesium-137 and strontium-90 that have reportedly been captured by the system and which have radioactive half-lives of roughly 30 years, iodine-129 has a half-life of 15.7 million years and persists in the environment for 15.7 million years (ten half-lives). Ruthenium-106 has a half-life of 373 days and persists for 10 years; technetium-99’s half-life is 211,000 years and it persists for 2.11 million years.
Tepco said in 2018 it had not checked the levels of radioactive materials in each tank. As of Jan. 23, 2020, there were over 680 tanks on site holding 1,184,858 cubic meters—over a million tonnes—of the liquid radioactive waste.
— Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo), “Current State of Post-Accident Operations,” April 3, 2020; BBC, “Fukushima: Radioactive water may be dumped in Pacific,” Sept. 10, 2019; Water Technology.com, “Fukushima Plant’s ALPS Treatment System in Trouble,” Aug. 27, 2018; and Japan Times, “ALPS System at Fukushima No. 1 Plant Failing to Remove More Than Tritium from Toxic Cooling Water,” Aug. 19, 2018