The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, standing on an 860 acre site, overlooks the Pacific Ocean. The plant was commissioned in 1971, and consisted of six boiling reactors which drove electrical generators, making it the 10th largest nuclear power plant on the planet. The plant is operated and ran by Tokyo electric power company (TEPCO), a Japanese electrical company, providing power to the Kanto region.
The plant is subjected to continuous nuclear disasters, which after talks with TEPCO’s leader of the reform committee, Dale Klein, is coming up with some debatable solutions to avoid this from happening again.
New risks are arising since their last major melt down in 2011, where the reactors suffered meltdowns after the hit of a tsunami, releasing filtered nuclear water out into the Pacific Ocean. Although the water had been filtered, some harmful chemicals within the water are still present and pose a risk to the surrounding natural environments. The company faced major criticisms for the way the meltdown was handled. Radiation polluted the air, land and sea, causing an evacuation to the surrounding populous. In total, this evacuation cost TEPCO $57 billion in compensation.
TEPCO’s failure to manage the accumulation of contaminated water came to light last summer, when the company admitted that at least 300 tonnes of water were leaking into the sea every day.
Approximately 400 tonnes of groundwater is mixing into the reactors behind the nuclear plant each day. The plant has accumulated around 300,000 tonnes of polluted water, which is being stored in 1,200 tanks that occupy the site.
In an interview, Dale Klein told AFP that highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors four years ago is still being kept inside the tanks in the plant and could be dangerous. “The longer you store the water, the more likely you are going to have an uncontrolled release.” Dale has stated that he would like to see the water released from storage within the next three years.
Improvements to avoid an uncontrolled release include the construction of an underground frozen wall. This wall will help avoid groundwater mixing with contaminated radioactive coolant water, which becomes tainted as soon as it comes into contact with melted nuclear fuel inside the damaged reactors.
TEPCO have confirmed that they will experiment with a prototype of the wall at one of the sites within the plant. If the test is successful, the company plans to use this method to construct a 2km structure around 4 damaged reactors.
Klein, among other scientists, have voiced skepticism on the success of the frozen wall solution, suggesting that the controlled release of treated water in the Pacific Ocean was preferable to storing huge quantities of it on site. However, Akira Ono, the Fukushima Daiichi plant’s manager, had said that TEPCO has no plans to release contaminated water in the Pacific, but agreed that decommissioning would remain on hold until the problem was solved.
Ultimately, TEPCO are relying on technologies to be able to filter and purify the contaminated water as it will allow them to control and dispose of the waste into the Pacific Ocean without damaging the environment. However, as there is little technology available that can achieve this objective, this leaves them with nothing else to do but scratch their heads until a manageable solution is available.
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