The waste water leaks at Fukushima Daiichi have become a continuing saga…

  • On Tuesday Tepco reported a third waste reservoir may be leaking at F. Daiichi. This time, it was the cistern that was receiving the waters from the first leaking reservoir. The discovery was made when the receiving pool had reached 55% capacity. Contaminated water was detected between the layers of waterproof sheeting that line the outside and bottom of the reservoir. The analysis on the third pool’s leakage revealed 10,000 Becquerels per milliliter of contamination. The company immediately suspended the water transfer upon finding the new leak. Tepco had planned to move water to empty cisterns, and keep the level in each below 80% of capacity. This is because they believed the leaks in the first two pools came from the upper part of the plastic liners. However, it seems the third pool’s leak is lower in the ground. Now, Tepco is reconsidering their plans. Company spokesperson Masayuki Ono says the company is losing faith in the temporary underground reservoirs. Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi ordered Tepco to immediately address this latest issue and assure the public that the toxic water will not seep into the Pacific Ocean. Tepco says they plan to have all reservoirs emptied and the water moved to more reliable storage by June. (NHK World; Kyodo News; Jiji Press; Japan Daily Press)
  • On Wednesday, Tepco said they would soon transfer water from the first leaking reservoir to one that has not yet been used. The company said the water transfer will be a temporary measure until enough empty above-ground tanks are available. None of the hundreds of above-ground tanks have leaked. Tepco planned to begin the water transfer on Thursday. (NHK World; Kyodo News)
  • Today, Tepco reported that a flange (pipe joint) on the water transfer system sprung yet another leak. About 22 liters of water escaped and seeped into the ground near the flange. Water was being pumped out of reservoir #3 (the source of the first leak discovered last weekend) at 2pm, but was stopped 3 minutes later when the leak was seen by plant staff. It is believed the leaked water contained 290,000 Becquerels of radioactivity per milliliter. Tepco says they will fix the problem and re-start the transfer. More than 25,000 gallons of waste water remains to be pumped out of reservoir #3. (NHK World; Kyodo News; Jiji Press
  • Tepco is also sampling their groundwater pumping wells for contamination. They report that all four of the wells show no detectible Beta activity. All of the 60+ isotopes in the leaking water reservoirs are Beta radiation emitters. The ground water pumps are being used to try and divert water away from the flooded turbine building basements of F. Daiichi units #1 through 4. This sampling should show if the groundwater under the plant property is being contaminated by the waste water leaks. (Tepco Press Release)

Now, here are the other Fukushima updates…

  • 99% of residents in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures have no internal Cesium contamination. Tokyo University researchers examined 22,000 volunteers from the area between March and November of last year. The team, headed by Professor Ryugo Hayano, first ran soil samples in the region in order to compare their results to the data from the 1986 Chernobyl accident. They wanted to examine people living in Tohoku locations with similar soil contamination found in some populated localities near Chernobyl. Of the 212 Japanese who were found to have internal Cesium, the concentration is about 10 Becquerels per kilogram of body tissue. This equates to an internal exposure of about 0.04 millisieverts per year. On the average, this is about one-one hundredth of the internal exposure found in Chernobyl-area residents living in areas of similar soil contamination levels. It was noted that four elderly people who routinely eat wild mushrooms and local game have a 1 mSv/yr Cesium exposure rate. While the team agrees that these are relatively good numbers, they said that checks on internal exposure should be continued. The team’s results were published in the journal Transactions of the Japan Academy. (Japan Daily Press; Jiji Press; Japan News)
  • A new government committee is investigating the Fukushima accident. The Special Committee for Investigation of Nuclear Power was created to address open questions posed by the Diet’s Independent Investigative Panel (NAIIC) when they released their report last summer. Members of the NAIIC are being grilled by the new group concerning their personal views on nuclear issues. The initial reports are discouraging. NAIIC Chairman Kyoshi Kurukawa proclaimed, “The accident has not been brought under control.” This touched off a wave of criticism of the new Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which the NAIIC members all said they do not trust. Seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi maintained, “We cannot say the world’s top-class safety measures will be in place [as the NRA claims].” Lawyer Shuya Nomura said, “The public is extremely concerned, especially about the latest contaminated water leak. Many people worry if it’s a good idea to leave the plant up to Tepco and the regulators. Regulators should demonstrate they can properly carry out the decades-long decommissioning process.” Former nuclear engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka charged the NRA with rubber-stamping everything Tepco is doing, “They make a risk assessment, submit their plans to the government and they’re approved. It’s the same old routine.” Tanaka also said the authority has been too lenient in granting operators a five-year grace period for installing some safety equipment required under new regulations to take effect later this year. Finally, he asserted, “The new regulation standards will be toothless unless the causes of the accident are brought to light,” calling for a congressional take-over of the Fukushima plant recovery effort. Fukushima resident Reoko Hashisuka said, “Disaster victims have been frustrated by the Diet’s response. Give us peace of mind.” In addition, the members agreed the NRA has downplayed the risk of low-level radiation exposure. (Asahi Shimbun; Japan Today) Comment – This essentially quashes belief in the objectivity of the NAIIC’s members. It seems they all have strong antinuclear biases.
  • Negotiations for a rad-waste storage site in Nahara Town are under way. Nahara lies within to 20km-wide restricted zone around F. Daiichi. Of immediate concern is the 475,000 tons of earthquake and tsunami debris that has been untouched for more than 2 years. Governor Matsumoto met with Environment ministers and insisted the town will only allow local storage of materials from the town proper. No debris from outside of Nahara Town will be accepted. The contamination level of the quake and tsunami debris was monitored at 100,000 Becquerels per kilogram or less, depending on the sample location. That number was posted last April, so the radioactive decay of the Cesium-134 isotope has dropped considerably. (Japan Today)