Wars are dangerous, reactors much less so

March 30, 2022, 11:55AMANS Nuclear CafeJacopo Buongiorno, Steven Nesbit, Malcolm Grimston, Lake Barrett, Matthew L. Wald, and Andrew Whittaker
The six reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine.

On March 4, Russian forces set fire to an office building at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, raising fears about reactors being damaged. The attack stirred up memories of the Chernobyl accident in 1986, a reaction that longtime nuclear opponents are taking advantage of to rekindle their cause. However, the reactors operating in Ukraine today are profoundly different from the design used at Chernobyl, and are, by nature, difficult to damage.

Let’s set the record straight and explain the risks of nuclear power plants in war zones.

Eleven years since Fukushima

March 10, 2022, 12:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident.

Today’s #ThrowbackThursday post looks back at some of Nuclear News’s reporting on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, which was initiated 11 years ago tomorrow. The news reporting includes the initial coverage of the event from the pages of Nuclear News in April 2011 and the in-depth coverage of the 2011 ANS Annual Meeting, where special sessions focused on the accident.

Advanced liquid waste processing systems: Safely processing Fukushima’s wastewater

March 19, 2021, 2:07PMUpdated December 28, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station site. Image: Courtesy of TEPCO.

As 2021 closes, Nuclear News is taking a look back at some of the feature articles published each month in the magazine. March 2021 marked 10 years since the earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan and crippled the Fukushima nuclear station. This article from our March issue remains timely since various news outlets continue to report on the dangers of the Fukushima waste water without providing context to the Japanese plan to discharge the water. The March issue of Nuclear News also included a great review article from Lake Barrett outlining the current status of the decontamination and decommissioning going on at Fukushima.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) became a household name a decade ago as the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, center of the largest nuclear accident in a generation. Now in 2021, as a result of the continuous mitigation efforts, TEPCO is currently storing 1.2 million cubic meters of treated wastewater—and counting—in more than 1,000 large storage tanks on site. This wastewater has been in the spotlight for the past few years since current projections show that storage capacity will run out by 2022.

Inspecting nuclear facilities with unmanned aerial systems

October 22, 2021, 3:01PMNuclear NewsMonica Rivera Garcia

Over the past decade, unmanned aerial systems (UASs), more commonly referred to as drones, have played an increasing role in the day-to-day activities of the energy sector. Applications range from visually inspecting wind turbines, flare stacks, pipelines, and facilities to evaluating vegetation encroachment near power lines. Although the benefits of UASs have been reported in these industries, their use in the nuclear community has only recently been explored. For instance, a drone was sent into a waterbox at a Duke Energy facility to inspect for leaks.1 And at Fukushima Daiichi, a drone was used to conduct a post-accident radiation survey inside Unit 3, and drones are being investigated for use inside the damaged containments.2

Intellectuals plead with Germany to keep remaining nuclear

October 18, 2021, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe
The Brokdorf nuclear plant, located in Germany’s Schleswig-Holstein region on the Elbe river, is scheduled to close later this year. (Photo: Alois Staudacher, CC BY-SA 3.0)

In an open letter published last week in Welt, 25 leading German and foreign academics, environmentalists, and journalists attempt to convince the German people that continuing with their nation’s phase-out of nuclear power is not a good idea, and certainly not a green one.

IAEA boosts projections for nuclear power’s potential growth

September 20, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The International Atomic Energy Agency has revised upward its projections regarding the potential growth of nuclear power’s capacity for electricity generation over the next three decades. The upward revision is the first by the IAEA since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011.

Released last week, the 148-page report, Energy, Electricity and Nuclear Power Estimates for the Period up to 2050, provides detailed glimpses into possible nuclear futures in North America; Latin America and the Caribbean; Northern, Western, and Southern Europe; Eastern Europe; Africa; Western Asia, Southern Asia, and Central and Eastern Asia; Southeastern Asia; and Oceania. Global and regional nuclear power projections are presented as low and high cases.

CBS’s 60 Minutes gets robot’s-eye view of Fukushima Daiichi

July 13, 2021, 6:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe
A look at Fukushima Daiichi today. (Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images)

News programmers’ hunger for stories about the aftermath of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi in March 2011 shows no signs of abating.

Pebble bed reactors, friction, and cooling

May 25, 2021, 9:31AMANS Nuclear CafeLaura Simmons

When one of the largest modern earthquakes struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant automatically shut down as designed. The emergency systems, which would have helped maintain the necessary cooling of the core, were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Because the reactor could no longer cool itself, the core overheated, resulting in a severe nuclear meltdown.

Since then, reactors have improved exponentially in terms of safety, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the light-water reactors at Fukushima, which had liquid coolant and uranium fuel, advanced reactors have a variety of coolant options, including molten-salt mixtures, supercritical water, and gases such as helium.

IEA: CO2 emissions on their way back up

April 27, 2021, 9:32AMNuclear News

The decline in global carbon dioxide emissions recorded last year will not continue through 2021, a new report from the International Energy Agency concludes. Released last week, Global Energy Review 2021 finds that energy–related CO2 emissions are on course for the second-largest increase in history, reversing most of 2020’s COVID pandemic–related drop. The surge would be the largest since 2010, during the carbon-intensive recovery from the worldwide financial crisis, according to the agency.

Adding context to Japan’s (correct) decision to dispose of Fukushima wastewater

April 13, 2021, 6:28AMNuclear News
A current picture of the Fukushima nuclear power station with the more than 1,000 water storage tanks on site. Photo: Courtesy of TEPCO.

The Japanese government will soon announce the decision to dispose of stockpiled Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific Ocean, according to an AP News story published last Friday. The decision is years in the making and follows the guidelines from a panel of government-appointed experts named the Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS-Treated Water (ALPS Subcommittee).

Critical Look: PBS Newshour’s coverage of 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear accident

March 15, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

Along with many other media outlets on March 11, the PBS NewsHour reported on the continuing recovery efforts from the earthquake and tsunami that devastated northeastern Japan 10 years ago. The segment, "Japan marks 10th anniversary of Fukushima nuclear disaster," is just over eight minutes long, most of which discusses the effects of the earthquake and tsunami on the region and Japan’s preparedness for the next major natural incident.

Germany settles with utilities over nuclear phaseout

March 15, 2021, 7:00AMNuclear News

RWE’s Gundremmingen nuclear plant, located in Bavaria, is slated to close at the end of the year. Photo: Wikipedia/Felix König

After years of litigation, Germany has reached an agreement with four utility companies on compensation for losses incurred as a result of the government’s stunning decision in 2011 to abandon nuclear power. In March of that year, only days after the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a 180-degree reversal in the country’s energy policy, which had been one of support for nuclear power. Eight units were shut down immediately, and by May 2011 the government had announced a plan to close all nuclear power plants by 2022.

The companies will receive a total of €2.4 billion (about $2.85 billion), with €1.4 billion going to Sweden-based Vattenfall and the remaining €1 billion split between German utilities RWE (€880 million), EnBW (€80 million), and E.ON (€42.5 million). In return, the companies have agreed to terminate all phaseout-related legal disputes with the government.

Safely decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi and revitalizing Fukushima

March 11, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear NewsAkira Ono

Akira Ono is chief decommissioning officer of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings and president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning Engineering Company.

The mission of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), and my personal mission, is to safely decommission the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and thereby contribute to the revitalization of Fukushima.

In performing this important work, we are guided by the principle of balancing the recovery of Fukushima with the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, doing everything possible to mitigate the risks as we progress. Since the accident on March 11, 2011, we have stabilized the site and alleviated many of its crisis aspects.

Most significantly, we have been making efforts to improve the working environment by reducing the contamination on the site due to the accident. About 4,000 workers are currently engaged at Fukushima Daiichi. The average monthly radiation dose for those workers has been reduced from 21.55 mSv (2,155 mrem) immediately following the accident to 0.3 mSv (30 mrem).

Statement on the 10th anniversary of Fukushima

March 11, 2021, 9:27AMPress Releases

This week marks the tenth anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed approximately 19,000 people in Japan and subsequently triggered the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The International Atomic Energy Agency rated Fukushima as a level 7 major accident, the highest on its scale. Thankfully, no civilian deaths or discernible cancer rate increases can be attributed to radiation released from the accident, according to the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. However, over 1,000 died in the evacuation of the Fukushima prefecture. Most of the victims were elderly and vulnerable, and died primarily from exposure to cold weather, stress and inadequate access to healthcare and housing.

Fukushima Daiichi: 10 years on

March 1, 2021, 2:12PMNuclear NewsLake Barrett

The Fukushima Daiichi site before the accident. All images are provided courtesy of TEPCO unless noted otherwise.

It was a rather normal day back on March 11, 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant before 2:45 p.m. That was the time when the Great Tohoku Earthquake struck, followed by a massive tsunami that caused three reactor meltdowns and forever changed the nuclear power industry in Japan and worldwide. Now, 10 years later, much has been learned and done to improve nuclear safety, and despite many challenges, significant progress is being made to decontaminate and defuel the extensively damaged Fukushima Daiichi reactor site. This is a summary of what happened, progress to date, current situation, and the outlook for the future there.

Farming in Fukushima

February 12, 2021, 11:57AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Screenshot of the video from Vice.

Vice News has published a video on YouTube that follows two farmers from the Fukushima Prefecture, Noboru Saito and Koji Furuyama. Saito, who grows many different crops on his farm, says that the rice grown in the area is consistently rated as the best. Furuyama specializes in peaches and explains his strategy to deal with the stigma of selling fruit from Fukushima: grow the best peaches in the world.

Decommissioning effort delayed for two Fukushima Daiichi buildings

April 22, 2020, 9:57AMRadwaste Solutions

Decommissioning work in parts of the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan has been delayed after engineers discovered that sandbags placed in the basements of buildings near Units 1 and 3 were found to contain excessive radiation levels. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) operates the plant and is in charge of the decommissioning efforts following the accident caused by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

ANS backs Fukushima Daiichi treated water discharge plans

March 6, 2020, 12:44PMANS News

ANS President Marilyn Kray has expressed support for the continued recovery operations at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which sustained damage in the aftermath of a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Kray sent a letter on March 3 to Hiroshi Kajiyama, head of Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), about the work of the ministry’s Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) Treated Water and the findings of a February 2020 subcommittee report.

Anniversary Observations

March 11, 2019, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeAlan Medsker

The seismic event was huge and was felt all over the world.  With a moment magnitude of over 9.0, the earthquake and was the fourth largest ever in the more than 100 years of recorded history.  Huge land masses shifted as much as 2.4 meters, and the rotation of the earth was changed so that days were suddenly just a little (but measurable) bit shorter.  It had sped up the world.

Fukushima Three Years Later

March 11, 2014, 6:00AMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis


Tokyo Electric Power Company's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Station; Units 6 and 7 were submitted for safety screening in September 2013.

In our collective memory, disturbing images played out on video around the world in the days following the apocalyptic Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami have somewhat receded, even if they haven't lost their impact-images of rushing waters, floating vehicles, buildings and debris, massive (and unstoppable) outbreaks of fire, and implications of lives lost and lives ruined.