Below are some of the more notable new information related to Fukushima Daiichi from recent weeks. We will have more new coverage from Fukushima Daiichi as the 10th anniversary approaches and over-winter work begins at the plant, check back for new updates weekly.
Prefecture and local governments allow Onagawa unit 2 to restart. This plant is north of Fukushima Daiichi in Miyagi prefecture. Onagawa was largely spared from the tsunami that hit Fukushima Daiichi due to the plant being located on a hill. With local approvals Japan’s nuclear regulator could eventually give restart approval.
Japanese nuclear regulator’s website was hit by possible cyberattack in early November. This has obvious national security and public safety implications due to the data on nuclear plants.
Japan’s nuclear regulator has decided that problems at nuclear plants will be disclosed after they are resolved. This change is applied to “terrorism response facilities”. These facilities are the nuclear power plant disaster response buildings. Fukushima Daiichi had this kind of facility before the 2011 disaster. The Daiichi facility, frequently referred to as the bunker building or isolation building is an on site command center in a reinforced building with filtration capability to prevent radioactive contamination from reaching the interior. Other nuclear plants in Japan were required to build similar facilities as part of any restart approvals. Japan’s nuclear regulator renamed the facilities to give the appearance that they are for responding to terrorist attacks rather than their original purpose of responding to reactor failures. The bunker building at Fukushima Daiichi was a key component in combatting the meltdowns. Without it workers would have had to evacuate the plant.
TEPCO has completed a wood incinerator at Fukushima Daiichi. This incinerator will be use to burn trees cut down at the disaster site. Some were cut down due to radiation levels, others to make room for the ever growing contaminated water tanks.
Japan again puts off the decision to release treated Fukushima water into sea. The government agencies tasked with giving approvals for dumping this contaminated water into the sea delayed their decision again after widespread backlash.
Part of that backlash included a report by Greenpeace that cites the radioactive carbon 14 in Fukushima Daiichi water slated for ocean release, to be a significant threat to human health. The contaminated water is frequently touted as only containing tritium. In reality the water contains a number of types of radioactive contamination that can not be removed by filtration equipment. The remaining isotopes could damage human DNA.
Japan’s government plans to continue with their nuclear energy and nuclear fuel recycling program, even though it may make their plutonium stockpile problems worse rather than better. Japan’s large stockpile of spent fuel classified as plutonium holdings have been a problem since the Fukushima disaster. When Japan considered ending their nuclear power program the US stepped in and threatened that Japan would be in violation of non proliferation agreements if they did.
Japan’s new prime minister says there is no plan for new nuclear plants. This is a significant stance change after 9+ years of insistence that the 2011 nuclear disaster would not change Japan’s nuclear power ambitions. Japan’s current plan appears to be to burn MOX plutonium fuel in all of their old nuclear power plants until they are no longer operational.
TEPCO has begun building a concrete tsunami wall around the reactor buildings at Fukushima Daiichi. Temporary gabion walls were placed at the sea front in the initial years after the disaster. The new permanent wall system is based on government predictions of potential tsunami inundation. Extensive details and report results can be found in this document in Japanese.
TEPCO is planning the first fuel sample removal at unit 2 to take place in 2021. To meet that goal they planned another internal survey of the reactor pedestal area for October. The eventual fuel sample removal will take place through the X-6 penetration used for similar investigation work. Dust suppression measures will be used to try to prevent radioactive fuel dusts from leaving containment during the work. Once a sample is removed it will be taken to a government “hot lab” for investigation and testing.
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