Fukushima operator to decontaminate toxic water, dump into Pacific
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the
crippled nuclear plant, is in talks with government ministries
about the new plan, Japanese media reported on Thursday.
TEPCO has dumped water into the ocean numerous times after testing its safety. However, if this plan is approved, it will be the first time the company has released water that has already been contaminated.
The plan is aimed at battling the growing amounts of contaminated water accumulating in the plant’s buildings and to reduce the volume of groundwater that is flowing through the premises and becoming contaminated.
Some 400 tons of untainted groundwater are believed to be seeping into the buildings and mixing with toxic water generated in the process of cooling the crippled reactors on a daily basis.
The new plan would involve subdrains that were built around
buildings on the plant site. The 27 subdrains were originally
used to collect groundwater and release it into the ocean to
lower the groundwater level. Following the earthquake in March
2011, they were damaged and the groundwater started to get
TEPCO plans to repair the subdrains and create 15 additional ones to reduce the volumes of contaminated water to around 200 tons a day, or half the present level.
According to the plan, TEPCO is to remove radioactive cesium and strontium from the water and release it into the sea.
The Fukushima operator has submitted a request for approval to use the new equipment to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. TEPCO plans to start the process in the autumn.
Government authorities together with TEPCO officials visited local fisheries to explain the plan at the end of July, officials said, adding that they are waiting for the consent of local residents.
It will be difficult for TEPCO to receive approval for the plan,
as the utility has been fiercely criticized over its management
of Fukushima in the wake of the 2011 earthquake-triggered tsunami
that decimated the plant.
"Fishermen are sure to raise objections to the plan so it will be difficult to gain their understanding," an official said, as quoted by Asahi Shimbun. "The water close to the plant buildings is already contaminated."
In May, the company launched a groundwater bypass program aimed at pumping the groundwater at the uphill side of the facility and testing it for radiation, then flushing any uncontaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. The company has also been constructing an underground frozen soil wall to stop groundwater from reaching the plant.