Sunday, March 19, 2017

Ongoing Challenges at Fukushima Daiichi Managed by Discounting the Future


Several days ago The Asahi Shimbun reprinted an article from The New York Times on challenges at the Fukushima Daiichi site that I think summarizes the main issues effectively, albeit rose-tinged. Here is an excerpt:
Motoko Rich (New York Times) (2017, March 13). Nuclear Waste’s Toll And Challenge in Japan, Six Years After Disaster. The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/SDI201703131091.html

FUKUSHIMA DAIICHI NUCLEAR POWER STATION--Six years after the largest nuclear disaster in a quarter-century, Japanese officials have still not solved a basic problem: what to do with an ever-growing pile of radioactive waste. Each form of waste at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where three reactors melted down after an earthquake and a tsunami on March 11, 2011, presents its own challenges.

400 Tons of Contaminated Water Per Day

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. is pumping water nonstop through the three reactors to cool melted fuel that remains too hot and radioactive to remove. About 400 tons of water pass through the reactors every day, including groundwater that seeps in. The water picks up radiation in the reactors and then is diverted into a decontamination facility.

But the decontamination filters cannot remove all the radioactive material. So for now, all this water is being stored in 1,000 gray, blue and white tanks on the grounds. The tanks already hold 962,000 tons of contaminated water, and Tokyo Electric is installing more tanks. It is also trying to slow the flow of groundwater through the reactors by building an underground ice wall.

Within a few years, though, and no one is sure exactly when, the plant may run out of room to store the contaminated water. “We cannot continue to build tanks forever,” said Shigenori Hata, an official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Authorities are debating whether it might be acceptable, given the relatively low radioactive levels in the water, to dilute the contaminated water and then dump it into the ocean.
The solution is to dump diluted radioactive water into the ocean because TEPCO sees no other financially viable alternative.

What does it mean to dump radioactive water into a sea that is already suffering decades of abusive contamination?

What are the consequences for dumping of thousands of tons of tritiated water into a sea that is simultaneously subjected to the unintended and unstoppable strontium contamination from Fukushima's corroding nuclear fuel in the basement (and below) of the fractured reactor housing?

Notice how TEPCO's short-term economic priorities essentially "discount" future health and environmental effects from deliberately dumping vast amounts of radioactive contaminants into the ocean. 

The process and risks of discounting of future environmental and health effects are discussed by the EPA here.


I saw what I believe to be environmental impacts from Fukushima radiation in Phoenix AZ and in San Diego California. I saw a dramatic decline in tidal life in La Jolla after the disaster and in insect populations in Sun City West, North Scottsdale and Cave Creek (all in Arizona), with a a student corroborating similar impacts in Central Phoenix.

These impacts would have been caused by radioactive fallout in precipitation during the first year of the disaster.

The tidal impact of the disaster was first measured in San Diego in 2013 when scientists measuring cesium in La Jolla detected a cesium 134 and 137 isotope ratio that could be fingerprinted to the Daiichi disaster.

The current of radioactive water that begins in Japan and circulates to the North American coastline will bring contaminated water for years and years, bioaccumulating in the flora and fauna and biomagnifying all the way up to creatures such as ourselves.

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