The safe plan for Japan’s wastewater

November 7, 2023, 3:00PMNuclear NewsKen Petersen

Ken Petersen
president@ans.org

There has been a lot of breathless coverage surrounding the release of mildly tritiated wastewater from the Fukushima Daiichi site, generated in no small part by people, organizations, and even nations with a political axe to grind. But here are the facts:

On August 24, 2023, Fukushima Daiichi began its first release of tritium-containing water, following the Japanese government’s plans to meet all international guidelines. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has established a permanent office at the plant, provided on-site observation, online monitoring, and an independent analysis of the release. (The IAEA will continue to do so for all future releases.) Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that analyses of water samples taken from the sea within three kilometers of the plant showed tritium concentrations below 10 becquerels per liter, well below the 700 becquerels per liter set by the utility for suspending the release, and substantially below the drinking water quality standard of 10,000 becquerels per liter set by the World Health Organization.

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

March 1, 2021, 3:01PMUpdated August 25, 2023, 3:21PMNuclear NewsJohn Fabian
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station site. Image: Courtesy of TEPCO.

Earlier this week, Japan announced its intention to move ahead with its plan to discharge re-treated, diluted tritiated wastewater from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean. This plan has been a topic of discussion--and for many a source of contention--since 2013. After a decade of talks, and with the endorsement of nuclear scientists, experts, and organizations around the globe, the time has come to act. By following safety standards in place and endorsed by the IAEA, the release of wastewater will pose no threat to the public or the environment.

The article below was originally published in the March 2021 issue of Nuclear News. (Also included in that issue is a great review article from Lake Barrett outlining the current status of the decontamination and decommissioning going on at Fukushima .) That month marked 10 years since the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan and crippled the Fukushima plant. The words that follow remain timely, since various news outlets continue to report on the dangers of Fukushima's wastewater without providing context to the Japanese plan to discharge it.

Beyond the headlines: Japan’s treatment and release of Fukushima wastewater

July 5, 2023, 3:00PMRadwaste Solutions
A photo from 2021 of the Fukushima nuclear power station with the more than 1,000 water storage tanks on site. (Photo: TEPCO)

We’ve all seen the headlines such as “Should Japan Dump Fukushima's Radioactive Water into the Ocean?” along with “Japan Set to Pour Fukushima Waste into Pacific, Irking China” and “Japan Is Slowly but Surely Releasing Wastewater from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant into the Pacific Ocean.” The most recent spate of fearmongering was triggered by the IAEA’s July 4 announcement that the agency had finished its independent assessment of Japan’s plans to release the treated wastewater stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station and found the plan “consistent with IAEA Safety Standards.”

DOE hosts Japanese officials from nuclear decommissioning group

April 5, 2023, 7:00AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Pictured at the DOE's EM headquarters, from left, are Ana Han, foreign affairs specialist, EM International Program; Joceline Nahigian, director, EM Office of Intergovernmental and Stakeholder Programs; Scott Whiteford, deputy director, DOE Office of Legacy Management; William “Ike” White, EM senior advisor; Masaki Nakagawa, special advisor to executive directors, NDF; Tokuhiro Yamamoto, executive director, NDF; Shin Morita, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Taro Hokugo, managing director, International Affairs Group, NDF; Jeff Avery, EM principal deputy assistant secretary; Angela Watmore, deputy assistant secretary, EM Office of Acquisition and Project Management; and Ming Zhu, EM senior advisor for laboratory policy. (Photo: DOE)

Representatives from the Japan Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) recently visited the Department of Energy's Office of Environmental Management (EM) headquarters in Washington, D.C., and the Hanford Site in Washington state to promote collaboration and provide updates on the status and plans to decommission Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011, caused damage to the plant and surrounding communities. The NDF was created in September 2011 to oversee the decommissioning and cleanup of the plant, which is owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company.

Earthquake hits off coast of Japan near Fukushima

March 17, 2022, 3:01PMNuclear News

A magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan, at 11:36 p.m. (local time) yesterday, resulting in significant ground shaking near the epicenter, much structural damage, at least four deaths, and a power outage affecting more than 2 million households, including some 700,000 in Tokyo. (According to Japanese utility Tepco, power was restored to all households by 2:52 a.m. on Thursday.)

Spotlight On: The ANS Decommissioning and Environmental Sciences Division

October 28, 2021, 7:02AMRadwaste SolutionsANS

“A group of professionals having fun in the fields of decommissioning and environmental sciences for the nuclear industry.”

That’s how the ANS DESD describes itself on its website. The focus of this professional division is the development and use of skills and technologies needed for the optimal management of the end-­of-­life care (decommissioning, decontamination, and remediation), long-­term surveillance, and maintenance of nuclear installations, materials, facilities, and sites.

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.

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.

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).

ANS webinar updates progress at Fukushima

March 3, 2021, 9:25AMNuclear News

The accident at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on March 11, 2011, has sparked many safety improvements in the nuclear industry over the past decade. Lessons from the accident and its aftermath will influence firms and regulators as they consider the future design, construction, operation and decommissioning of nuclear reactors.

An American Nuclear Society webinar, “Nuclear News Presents: A Look Back at the Fukushima Daiichi Accident,” held yesterday was attended by more than 1,550 viewers and generated about 150 questions to the panelists. The attendance was the largest ever for an ANS webinar.

The panelists were Mike Corradini, emeritus professor, University of Wisconsin; Dale Klein, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Joy Rempe, principal, Rempe and Assoc. LLC; Lake Barrett, senior advisor, Tokyo Electric Power Company and Japan’s International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID); and Paul Dickman, senior policy fellow, Argonne National Laboratory.

The webinar’s recording and slides are available here, along with an e-version of the March issue of Nuclear News, which features a cover story on the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

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.

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.

2019 - A Wish List in Nuclear Energy

January 10, 2019, 3:54PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

Welcome to 2019!  I hope everyone who took a break enjoyed it. For those who didn't, why didn't you?  Initially, I had thoughts of trying to separate from social media and news to a significant extent during the holidays but, after conversations with Linda Zec (our wonderful ANS staff liaison for the Social Media Team, among many other things) decided that it was impractical to do so for a variety of reasons.  So, as the holiday furor ebbed and flowed and I continued, still connected, to read news and year-end summations, I found myself wishing that there wouldn't be so much frustrating news in 2019.  That's why I decided to open my eighth calendar year writing for the ANS Nuclear Cafe with a wish list, or "listicle" in the inside jargon, if you prefer.  Here, in ascending order of importance (or, I suppose, increasing order of unlikelihood) are my five wishes for this new year in nuclear energy.  (All on one screen; no annoying "next" buttons.  You're welcome.)

Decommissioning of Private Assets is Public Matter in Japan; TEPCO Forges Ahead

September 26, 2013, 1:56PMANS Nuclear CafeWill Davis

FukushimaDaiichi5and6breakwall

Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 (left) and 6 (right) seen in October 2012 behind the newly completed breakwall.

Earlier this month, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe conducted a visit to Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station to examine conditions at the site and to gauge TEPCO's response to numerous ongoing problems. When Abe spoke to reporters after the visit, he mentioned (for reasons still unknown) that he had suggested to TEPCO that it decommission Unit 5 and Unit 6 on the site, so that it could focus its efforts squarely on the work required to recover from the nuclear accidents at Units 1, 2, and 3. This was reported with some surprise in many quarters.