U.N. Agency Eyes Flushing More Fukushima-Contaminated Water

A worker checks a wall along a coastline at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in November. The International Atomic Energy Agency this week urged Tokyo to consider dumping additional contaminated water from the damaged site.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Feb. 14, 2014, 9:57 a.m.

The U.N. nuc­le­ar watch­dog urged Ja­pan to weigh dump­ing ra­dio­act­ive wa­ter from its Fukushi­ma plant to help con­trol the flu­id’s “enorm­ous” quant­ity.

Ja­pan should con­sider “all op­tions” to man­age ra­di­ation-tain­ted flu­id from the Fukushi­ma Daii­chi nuc­le­ar power plant, “in­clud­ing the pos­sible re­sump­tion of con­trolled dis­charges to the sea,” the In­ter­na­tion­al Atom­ic En­ergy Agency said in a re­port pre­pared at Ja­pan’s re­quest and made pub­lic on Thursday. A 2011 earth­quake and tsunami led to melt­downs in three of the six re­act­ors at the fa­cil­ity over­seen by Tokyo Elec­tric Power, and the plant op­er­at­or has ap­plied massive quant­it­ies of wa­ter since that time to help cool over­heat­ing com­pon­ents.

More than 132 mil­lion gal­lons of con­tam­in­ated wa­ter had amassed on the fa­cil­ity’s grounds as of late last year, and about a fifth of that amount was in­side base­ments and oth­er struc­tures, the Vi­enna-based U.N. agency said in its re­port.

Oth­er wa­ter was be­ing stored in­side hun­dreds of tanks, and the re­port says Tokyo Elec­tric Power is field­ing more of the con­tain­ers. Tank leaks have been an on­go­ing prob­lem, though, and the U.N. agency said Ja­pan would need to take steps bey­ond de­ploy­ing ad­di­tion­al con­tain­ers and re­fin­ing de­con­tam­in­a­tion tech­no­logy already in place.

“It is ne­ces­sary to find a sus­tain­able solu­tion” to the wa­ter prob­lems at the coastal com­plex, the U.N. agency said in its as­sess­ment.

The IAEA au­thors urged Tokyo Elec­tric Power to as­sess what “po­ten­tial ra­di­olo­gic­al im­pact” re­leas­ing ad­di­tion­al con­tam­in­ated wa­ter in­to the ocean would have on “the pop­u­la­tion and the en­vir­on­ment.” The com­pany re­leased more than 1,000 tons of wa­ter from the plant last Septem­ber, when a typhoon flooded the site with more flu­id than it could handle.

The re­port did not sug­gest how much wa­ter the site might ul­ti­mately dump, and it called for ex­tens­ive dis­cus­sion of the po­ten­tial move with gov­ern­ment au­thor­it­ies and the pub­lic.

“It is clear that fi­nal de­cision mak­ing will re­quire en­ga­ging all stake­hold­ers, in­clud­ing [Tokyo Elec­tric Power], the [Ja­pan­ese Nuc­le­ar Reg­u­la­tion Au­thor­ity], the na­tion­al gov­ern­ment, Fukushi­ma pre­fec­ture gov­ern­ment, loc­al com­munit­ies and oth­ers,” says the re­port, which as­sesses Ja­pan’s ef­forts to plan and carry out the Fukushi­ma site’s dis­man­tle­ment.

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