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Japan Power

30 Years To Clean Up Fukushima Dai-Ichi 342

0WaitState writes "Damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant may take three decades to decommission and cost operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. more than 1 trillion yen ($12 billion), engineers and analysts said. Relatedly, Japanese officials and power plant operators are now working on the problems involved with disposing of 55,000 tons of radioactive water. '... international law forbids Japan from dumping contaminated water into the ocean if there are viable technical solutions available later. So the plant operator is considering bringing in barges and tanks, including a so-called megafloat that can hold about 9.5 megalitres. Yet even using barges and tanks to handle the water temporarily creates a future problem of how to dispose of the contaminated vessels.'" Yesterday's 7.1 aftershock caused brief power losses at three other nuclear facilities, and small volumes of contaminated water spilled, but no significant radiation leakage occurred before the problems were resolved.
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30 Years To Clean Up Fukushima Dai-Ichi

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  • Filtration (Score:3, Informative)

    by EdZ ( 755139 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:23PM (#35759184)
    Wait a few weeks for the Iodine to decay, filter out the Ceasium and any inert heavy metals that might have been picked up. Pump now pure water into sea.
    As for the storage barges: they're only intending to store lightly contaminated water in them (to make room in the internal tanks for more heavily irradiated water), so irradiation from decay will be minimal. A good rinse should be sufficient to clean them of any radionuclides hanging about.
  • by Ruie ( 30480 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:25PM (#35759222) Homepage

    Have they considered putting it in cans and selling it at gas stations with a big glowing F on it?

    Fukushima - For Radiant Health! It'll make a Monster out of you!

    marketing has an answer for everything!

    This has been tried before []...

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:29PM (#35759290) Journal
    I suspect that you would run into two major problems:

    1. That volume of water is massive and lifting mass out of our gravity well is damn pricy. You could probably give it a funeral sarcophagus shielded with several centimeters of gold for corrosion-resistant radiation absorption for the same money.

    2. Heavy launch is not an entirely safe procedure. From time to time, something breaks and the cargo ends up burning up in the atmosphere. If the cargo is deliciously radioactive, that would be an issue. (and, if it isn't, a teakettle is a much cheaper way of dispersing it into the atmosphere...)
  • Re:oblig (Score:2, Informative)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:32PM (#35759346) Homepage Journal

    The solution to pollution is dilution.

    That's what the miners tell me, anyway.

    A mining engineer once explained the difference between Hazardous Waste and Toxic Waste -

    Hazardous means harmful in high concentration, e.g. grain alcohol is fairly harmless below 5% by volume, but fairly hazardous above 90% by volume.

    Toxic means harmful in any concentration. Plutonium is the most toxic substance known - even one atom will be harmful, even if not readily apparent.

  • by hedwards ( 940851 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:37PM (#35759404)

    The major difference is containment. Hazmat equipment for dealing with chemical spills is much more effective than the gear for dealing with radiation. It does depend which type of particles you're dealing with, but some of them are pretty nasty and can penetrate thick concrete walls.

    Nuclear clean up can take a really long time, just because the exposure is harder to manage and the steps involve more complicated. The world famous Hanford Site was last shut down in the late 80s, and we're still barely into the process of getting the site cleaned up. Granted it was established in the 40s for the purposes of creating nuclear weapons, but the site itself is still a mess and it's likely to still be a mess in 30 years at the rate things are going.

    Hanford clean up []

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:43PM (#35759480)

    tritium emissions can't even get through a sheet of paper

    Those are the dangerous emissions. They don't get through paper because they loose all their energy damaging it, which does not much for paper since it is already dead. Its the reason why the protective gear used near nuclear accidents is so thin, its enough to keep the alpha radiation from reaching your body, once ingested however there is nothing between it and your vulnerable cells.

  • Re:Halflife? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:43PM (#35759484)

    Unfortunately, while the radioactive iodine has a half-life of only eight days or so, the radioactive cesium has a half-live of over thirty years. Radioactive cesium isn't as harmful as iodine (it doesn't accumulate in the thyroid gland forever) but it is water-soluble, unlike (for example) a noble gas, and will increase the risk of cancer if it makes its way into the water supply or the fishes' food chain or what have you.

  • by Zeio ( 325157 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @12:52PM (#35759606)

    Alpha particles can be breathed and actually is the most ionizing of all the ionizing radiation.

    Alpha particles are extremely dangerous but are not penetrating.

    The worst vector is to have an alpha emitter embedded in living tissue.

    You must understand radiation exposure is not the same thing as exposure to hot particles or hot particles embedded in vivo.

    There is a terrible misunderstanding going on. Sure, you could eat dinner next to a solid block of plutonium if its not critical its just a metal brock that emits some radiation. There used to be uranium paints and glazes used on cookware. Atomized and superheated fission products or fission products in salts and compounds embedded in vivo is a bloody mess. Its porrly understood and you can't use "x-rays, cosmic rays, plane flights" and trash like that to compare. The rays aren't that dangerous. The hot particles are very very dangerous because they can become part of your own biology and emit, even at low levels, inside your body.

    So much for your sheet of paper. If that was the cause, Radon wouldn't be remediated and people would just enjoy sniffing alpha particles.

  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @01:01PM (#35759736)

    yes, the GP is probably what people are talking about when they accuse the pro-nuclear side of being cavalier about radiation.

    Plutonium with it's 20K half life is mainly dangerous as a heavy metal, iodine-131 with it's (if I'm remembering this correctly ) 8 day half life is at least gone after a few months.

    but that 12 year half life is a pretty bad one, too long to expect it to be gone in a reasonable time but short enough to be a really nasty source of radiation.

    Storing it shouldn't be too much of a problem at least, it's not a source of neutron radiation so it shouldn't leave it's container radioactive and since it's an alpha emitter a plain old water tank is good enough to shield people outside from the radiation but it's a bad one when it escapes into the environment and gets drunk by people.

  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @01:35PM (#35760264) Homepage

    While not terribly cheap, the technology for separating dissolved compounds from water(to fairly extreme degrees of purity, in the case of water for lab/analytic use) is very much off-the-shelf.

    Right. That was done at Three Mile Island. Bear in mind that you can't make water itself radioactive; hydrogen and oxygen don't have any radioactive isotopes with long half-lives. (The longest, 15O has a half-life of 122 seconds, so it's gone within an hour.) All the radioactivity is in dissolved solids. So the process looks a lot like desalinization - the water is forced through membranes that catch all the solids. Eventually, you have dry salts, which you put in casks and bury in some desert or hard-rock cave.

    That's the easy part of the problem, though. Remember that the reactor buildings are wrecked from the hydrogen explosions. All the fuel rods in the spent fuel pools have to be carefully moved to some other location, probably newly built spent fuel pools nearby. In 3-5 years, they'll have decayed enough for dry storage, and they'll be put into casks. They can then be moved off site.

    This leaves the reactors themselves. Units 1,2, and 3 still haven't reached cold shutdown. Until that's achieved, cleanup can't even start. The situation isn't even close to safe until all three reactors are in cold shutdown, not leaking, and have redundant cooling. Look at the status reports at the Japan Industrial Atomic Forum []. Until all the red squares turn yellow, there's a sizable risk of things getting worse.

    Decommissioning the damaged reactors will be really tough. They're too damaged to de-fuel, and they need constant cooling, so they can't just be encased in steel and concrete. I don't know what will be done.

    This is much, much worse than Three Mile Island. At TMI, the control room was up and running through the whole episode, they reached cold shutdown in a few days, they never had an explosion, and radioactivity was confined to the containment vessel.

  • Re:Nuclear economics (Score:5, Informative)

    by polar red ( 215081 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @02:18PM (#35760950)
  • by Kyusaku Natsume ( 1098 ) on Friday April 08, 2011 @02:19PM (#35760964)

    TEPCO has put back online units 3, 2 and 5. From their press release: []

    -Kashima Thermal Power Station Units 6: shutdown due to the earthquake
    -Kashima Thermal Power Station: Units 2 resumed generating power at
      5:45 pm April 7th.
    -Kashima Thermal Power Station: Units 5 resumed generating power at
      9:27 am April 8th.

    Yesterday they put online unit 3, I'm impressed that they managed to put those units online in such a short time even with the ground still shaking.

    Also, they put forward a plan to reinforce Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPS, the largest in the world, in accordance with the new, upgraded regulations for the operation of NPS in Japan, in [] and graphics []

    The new walls aside from protecting the buildings from tsunami waves, I think they will act as an additional barrier in case the reactor building suffer fire or explosions, like the one in unit 3 in Fukushima, that sent debris damaging several buildings around the unit, I don't know if they will provide some radiation protection to workers in case of emergency.

    The amended regulations say: []

    Article 17-2 The organization shall draw up plan for each of the folloeing in
    order to improve system for maintaining reactor facilities under circumstances where tidal waves cause loss of function to all the facilities receiving alternating-currentpower, all the reactor cooling facilities utilizing seawater and all the facilities for spent fuel pool cooling (“Station Blackout”).
    (1) Allocate staff in order to maintain reactor facilities under Station Blackout.
    (2) Train staff who operate to maintain reactor facilities under Station Blackout.
    (3) Install power source cars, fire-fighting vehicles, fire fighting hoses and other equipments necessary for operation to maintain reactor facilities under Station Blackout.
    2. The organization shall conduct activities to maintain reactor facilities under Station Blackout based on the plans mentioned above.
    3. The organization shall conduct periodic evaluation on the matters mentioned in Paragraph 1. and 2. and based on such evaluation, take necessary measures.

    Now, we shall be looking the start of improvement works in a pair of months in NPS around the world; that, if the nuclear industry really wants to survive this disaster.

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