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).

ASLB to hear argument against Point Beach license renewal

April 8, 2021, 3:27PMNuclear News
Point Beach Units 1 and 2. Photo: NRC

An atomic safety and licensing board has been established to address a hearing request filed on behalf of an antinuclear group regarding the subsequent license renewal (SLR) application for NextEra Energy’s Point Beach reactors, located near Two Rivers, Wis. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission published notice of the panel’s formation in the April 2 Federal Register.

Post-Fukushima safety enhancements

April 2, 2021, 2:47PMNuclear NewsLeah Parks, Carl Mazzola, Jim Xu, and Brent Gutierrez
A map of Japan highlighting the Fukushima prefecture.

March 11 will mark the 10-­year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi event, when a 45-­foot tsunami, caused by the 9.0-­magnitude Great Tohoku Earthquake, significantly damaged the reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In response to this event, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission took actions to evaluate and mitigate beyond-­design-­basis events, including a new requirement for the staging of so-­called Flex equipment, as well as changes to containment venting and improvements to emergency preparedness. The U.S. Department of Energy also addressed beyond-­design-­basis events in its documented safety analyses.

Granholm speaks at Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 21 conference

March 22, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Granholm

U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm gave her first international address as part of the Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue 2021 conference, held on March 16 and 17. Granholm started her speech by stating that “America is back,” putting climate change policies front and center as part of the Biden administration’s agenda. She said that President Biden has set ambitious goals for climate policies that will set the United States on “an irreversible path toward net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

Granholm’s message: Granholm focused her talk on renewable energy investment and she discussed how the United States is dedicated to working with the rest of the world to cut emissions to get to net-zero. She touched on assorted topics, including investing in renewables, creating a resilient grid, installing hundreds of miles of new transmission lines to reach new renewable energy sources, improving carbon removal from current fossil fuels, promoting hydrogen production, researching next-generation battery storage, and realizing the potential massive economic boom that could come with all this investment by the U.S. Department of Energy.

There was one glaring omission from that list: Nuclear.

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

March 19, 2021, 2:07PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian

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. That spotlight intensified last year when a panel of experts from Japan named the Subcommittee on Handling of the ALPS-Treated Water (ALPS Subcommittee) recommended to the Japanese government that the treated wastewater should be released into the ocean. The ALPS Subcommittee’s report states, “The topic of how to handle the treated water is one of the most important decommissioning tasks, which has been discussed since 2013.” This issue has plagued the decommissioning and decontamination efforts for the past decade for one simple reason: a failure to effectively communicate about the low risk involved with processing, diluting, and discharging the water over a period of several years.

Safety remains nuclear power’s greatest post-Fukushima challenge

March 12, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Meshkati, holding an earthquake railing in a Fukushima Daiichi control room during a 2012 site visit. Photo: Najmedin Meshkati

As long as commercial nuclear power plants operate anywhere in the world, the authors of an article published this week on The Conversation believe it is critical for all nations to learn from what happened at Fukushima and continue doubling down on nuclear safety. But the authors, Kiyoshi Kurokawa and Najmedin Meshkati, say that a decade after the accident, the nuclear industry has yet to fully to address safety concerns that Fukushima exposed; the authors assign an “incomplete” grade to global nuclear safety.

In their article, Kurokawa and Meshkati write that the most urgent priority is developing tough, system-oriented nuclear safety standards, strong safety cultures, and much closer cooperation between countries and their independent regulators. They also believe that the International Atomic Energy Agency should urge its member states to find a balance between national sovereignty and international responsibility when it comes to operating nuclear power reactors in their territories.

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.

Calming fears about low-dose radiation

March 8, 2021, 12:00PMANS NewsMary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

Mary Lou Dunzik-Gougar

During my time as vice president and president of ANS, I have been advocating for a new approach to implementing dose limits across the nuclear industry. A lack of understanding and an unfounded fear of radiation has resulted in widespread efforts to minimize dose, rather than to optimize radiation protection in a holistic sense. I want to put the “reasonably” back into ALARA (“as low as reasonably achievable”). Such a paradigm shift, from minimization to optimization, while easily said, equates to a major cultural change spanning international government agencies, industry, nongovernmental organizations, professional societies, and even academia. It is essential to have the active participation of all stakeholders in a transparent process to effect such a change. This process will not only lead us toward a more level playing field for nuclear, it will also greatly impact public perception of nuclear and radiological technology.

The Economist: Independent regulators needed for strong nuclear power

March 8, 2021, 9:28AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Nuclear power is an important component in the fight against climate change, but independent regulation is needed to gain the public’s---and governments'---trust, according to a March 6 article in The Economist, “Nuclear power must be well regulated, not ditched.”

The article reviews the negative effect that the Fukushima Daiichi accident had on the worldwide nuclear industry following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Japan’s direct economic cost, estimated at more than $200 billion, was larger than that of any other natural disaster the world has seen, according to the article.

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.

Earthquake has impact on Fukushima Daiichi plant

February 23, 2021, 6:58AMNuclear News

The black star represents the epicenter of the February 13 earthquake. Image: USGS

There has been no off-site impact from the February 13 earthquake that struck off the east coast of Japan near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported on February 19. The earthquake, however, has caused a water leakage from two of the site's primary containment vessels (PCVs).

A nuclear alert order was issued by the plant about 20 minutes after the earthquake, and the water treatment and transfer facilities were shut down. Inspections after the event revealed no anomalies and the nuclear alert order was rescinded on February 14.

The nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan is now undergoing decommissioning.

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.

The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima kicks off an online documentary series

February 4, 2021, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe

A film titled The Toxic Pigs of Fukushima gets top billing as part of The Short List with Suroosh Alvi, an online documentary series curated by the founder of the media company Vice. The film, which first aired on Vice TV on January 31, follows local hunters who have been enlisted to dispose of radiated wild boars that now roam abandoned streets and buildings in Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear accident there.

U.K., Japan to research remote D&D, fusion systems

January 22, 2021, 6:53AMRadwaste Solutions

The LongOps project will develop innovative robotic technologies. Photo: UKAEA

Britain and Japan have signed a research and technology deployment collaboration to help automate nuclear decommissioning and aspects of fusion energy production. According to the U.K. government, which announced the deal on January 20, the £12 million (about $16.5 million) U.K.–Japanese robotics project, called LongOps, will support the delivery of faster and safer decommissioning at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan and at Sellafield in the United Kingdom, using long-reach robotic arms.

The four-year collaboration on new robotics and automation techniques will also be applied to fusion energy research in the two countries.

Funded equally by U.K. Research and Innovation, the U.K.’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, and Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company, the LongOps project will be led by the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority’s (UKAEA) Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) facility.

Japan should revive its nuclear industry, says new report

December 8, 2020, 7:01AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The Atlantic Council’s Global Energy Center has issued a report, Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Fleet: The Geopolitical and Climate Implications of Accelerated Decommissioning, contending that Japan’s reaction to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has led to an increased dependence on carbon-emitting energy sources that ultimately undermine the country’s recently announced climate goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

Recommendations: Released just a few months prior to the 10-year anniversary of the accident on March 11, 2011, the report recommends that Japan:

  • Use its existing nuclear fleet in the near and long term to 2050,
  • remain involved in global civil nuclear trade,
  • develop a role for advanced nuclear technologies, including small modular reactors, which it should deploy as soon as feasible,
  • rebuild its nuclear energy workforce and public trust in nuclear power, and
  • regain its leadership position in the climate battle.

Nuclear power: Are we too anxious about the risks of radiation?

September 30, 2020, 11:59AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Rowlatt

Following U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s recent restatement of the United Kingdom’s commitment to nuclear power, BBC News chief environment correspondent, Justin Rowlatt, wrote an article aimed at separating fact from fiction regarding the safety and benefits of nuclear energy.

Among his points, Rowlatt defended the use of nuclear power to combat climate change, examined the data behind deaths from radiation exposure directly caused by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents, and explained that exposure to low levels of radiation is not a major health risk.

GlobalData: China to pass U.S. nuclear capacity in six years

September 10, 2020, 5:03PMNuclear News

China is on track to overtake the United States in nuclear power capacity by 2026, according to GlobalData, a U.K.-based research and analytics company.

More than 160 GW of nuclear capacity will likely be added globally between 2020 and 2030, some 66 percent of which is anticipated to take place in China, India, and Russia, the company reported on September 9. China alone is set to account for more than 50 percent (83 GW) of the new capacity, followed by India with 8.9 percent (14.5 GW) and Russia with 6.4 percent (10.5 GW). GlobalData also projects that during the same period, more than 76 GW of nuclear capacity will be retired.

BAS: Don’t be afraid of nuclear energy

August 31, 2020, 3:00PMAround the Web

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) is currently featuring on its website a series of five articles by young American and Russian scholars on nuclear safety, with a focus on the industry’s three major accidents: Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima.

In one of those articles, “Don’t let nuclear accidents scare you away from nuclear power,” the authors conclude that “even after accounting for both the immediate and long-term toll of the three accidents, nuclear power has a remarkably safe track record compared to coal, natural gas, and even hydroelectric power.”

IAEA supports discharge of treated water at Daiichi

April 6, 2020, 9:21AMRadwaste Solutions

An International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts said in a review published on April 2 that the two options for the controlled disposal of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are “technically feasible.” A Japanese advisory subcommittee outlined the two options—vapor release and discharge to the sea—for the water that is being stored at the plant following the 2011 accident.