It has been 12 years since the breakout of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in japan, where the water storage tanks within the nuclear power plant are estimated to arrive at full load during summer and autumn this year.
The strong earthquake and tsunami had destructed Northeast Japan in March 2011, and resulted in core meltdown for three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant, where not only the significant level of molten fuels mixed with highly radioactive debris within the nuclear power plant that required processing, but also a sizable volume of cooling water from reactors and groundwater was contaminated by nuclear radiation. Variables such as the rainy weather and other cooling factors had also led to an increasing level of contaminated water.
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) clarifies and processes contaminated water mainly through ALPS devices, and the nuclear power plant would generate 100,000L of treated water each day. Despite having used thousands of large water tanks in storing treated water, the latest estimation by TEPCO during late December last year indicates that the storage space would arrive at full load during summer and autumn this year.
The nuclear power has stored more than 1.32 million tons of treated water as of February at 96% of the storage space, and the whereabouts of the treated water are now under the spotlight. The Japanese government has finalized on the decision in releasing treated water into the ocean during April 2021, and claimed that the release is necessary under the premise of safe procedures, especially with how the treated water has eliminated most radioactive elements after filtering.
However, this implementation has aroused objections from China, South Korea, and Taiwan, where environmental protection groups and local fishermen are also concerned that the release of treated would once again impact the fishing industry and the general environment.
ALPS treated water has filtered out radioactive elements, including cesium and strontium, though it remains difficult for existing technology to remove tritium on a massive scale. Experts commented that only a high level of tritium is harmful to the human body, and treated water will be filtered first in the future by lowering the radioactivity level to 1,500bq/L, which is far below the safety standard at 60,000bq/L. IAEA commented that the releasing of treated water adheres to the international standard, and would not jeopardize the environment.
TEPCO plans to establish additional filtering equipment, as well as a 1km long underwater pipeline, in order to release the treated water into coastal waters throughout the next several decades. The company commented that it will not release all treated water in one go. Total ALPS treated water is now sitting at 1.37 million tons, and it would take about 30-40 years of time if a maximum of 500 tons of water are released each day. The company is also breeding marine life such as flounders in order to simulate the impact of filtered water that is diluted on the fishing industry.
TEPCO had started constructing discharge facilities since August 2022, where the underwater tunnel that guides diluted wastewater containing tritium to 1km offshore has now completed about 800m in excavation. The company had also started the concrete reinforcement engineering surrounding the discharge outlet in early December.
With that being said, the sea state and weather after entering wintertime would not favor offshore operations, where subsequent construction progress and the completion of the discharge facility could be affected. The Atomic Energy Council pointed out that the official discharge schedule may be postponed to summertime this year, and will closely follow up with the corresponding progress.
(Cover photo source: Flickr/IAEA Imagebank CC BY 2.0)