With TEPCO again running out of space to hide (aka move) the highly contaminated water from the Reactors 2 and 3 at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, the hope is that the water treatment facility being built by AREVA will be in operation in June.
I mentioned the "rumor" in my post yesterday that the cost to treat 1 tonne of contaminated water will cost TEPCO/Japanese taxpayers 200 million yen (US$2.44 million). In addition to the exorbitant cost, some people are asking, "What exactly will the facility do? What types of radioactive materials is it capable of removing from the water?"
After all, it will be the first even for AREVA to treat radioactive water of this level of contamination.
To my (feigned) surprise, no one in the Japanese government seems to know exactly what the facility is designed to do, and TEPCO is not saying anything, because it is under the "confidentiality [non-disclosure] clause" of the agreement with the French company.
Why any work related to Fukushima I Nuke Plant is still considered "private" is a mystery to me, when the entire world is being affected and the Japanese taxpayers will likely be required to pick up the tab.
A Japanese writer Ryuichi Kino wrote about the TEPCO-AREVA agreement on his blog, and the following is my quick translation of his post in Japanese (emphasis is mine):
Doubt on the TEPCO's plan to remove the contaminated water based on the AREVA's water processing system, whose system details are not publicly disclosed
There's one thing that I have been wondering about for a while. I have asked about it several times during the press conferences and for which I have always gotten incomplete answers, and that is the AREVA's water processing system. The AREVA's system is basically for the removal of radioactive cesium, and it is not known if it removes any other radionuclides.
I forgot when was the first time I asked about the processing system for the contaminated water, but I do recall that I asked the question in the May 1 press conference. I had heard somewhere that the noble gas like iodine would be released untreated, so I asked whether it was true. The answer was that it was true [that iodine would be released untreated]. TEPCO seemed to think it wouldn't make much difference now that the roof of the reactor building had been blown off anyway in the Reactors 1 and 3.
It does make a difference in terms of reducing the release of radioactive materials into the environment, but what became clear in the press conference [of the government/TEPCO consolidated headquarters for dealing with the Fukushima I Nuke accident] yesterday (May 19) was an even bigger problem. To my surprise, TEPCO said the details of the AREVA's water processing system were "not to be disclosed, due to the contractual obligation." What is going on with the effort to wind down the Fukushima I accident, when the critical information is withheld due to "contractual obligation"?
What's even more surprising was that Prime Minister's Assistant Goshi Hosono, who acts as the secretary of this joint headquarters for the accident, didn't know the details of the water processing system either. Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency didn't know either. I was appalled.
The following is the summary of the answers given by TEPCO and government officials [regarding the AREVA's system] during May 19 press conference:
"The main purpose of the AREVA's water treatment system is to remove cesium. I hear that it could also remove other gamma [ray-emitting nuclides?] and metal (such as strontium). However, due to the contractual obligation with AREVA, it is not to be disclosed what other nuclides can be removed and how much. I'm told that is the agreement between TEPCO and AREVA."
"In building the water processing system, the details of the system needs to be reported [to NISA] in order to ascertain the safety. The details would include the types of nuclides to be treated. We would have to further consider how to deal with the non-disclosure issue in the agreement."
PM Assistant Hosono:
"I didn't know that [the details were not disclosed]. All I paid attention to was radioactive iodine and cesium, but there are other radionuclides. Is AREVA saying there is no data on other radionuclides? Or is is saying there is such data but not willing to disclose? I'll confirm [with AREVA?]. The data should be made public. If AREVA doesn't have information on other radionuclides [other than iodine and cesium], I would like to request the company to run the system, obtain the data, and then disclose the data."
TEPCO admitted that strontium was one of the nuclides to be processed, but didn't have information on plutonium and uranium. I simply don't understand why Hosono, representing the consolidated headquarters, and NISA were not aware of the situation [surrounding the AREVA's water treatment system].
Both the consolidated headquarters and NISA must have had a major role in crafting the [revised] "roadmap" announced on May 17. But they didn't know the details. What was the "roadmap" based on? Is it just a wish list [as many critics alleged], after all?
Without the detailed information on the types of nuclides to be processed, we wouldn't know how to treat and dispose the filters after the contaminated water is processed, and how to treat and dispose the still contaminated water after it is processed.
As to the contaminated water after being processed, it may be OK, as Hosono said in the press conference, "to analyze after the treatment", even though it gives the impression that the government is "behind the curve". Who is going to treat the filters that catch radioactive materials and where? What are the radioactive materials that need to be treated and disposed and how much, by the time the accident is wound down? Without the details of the water processing system, the "roadmap" doesn't even address such things.
I have another doubt. [TEPCO] seems to have abandoned the idea of "water entombment" for the Reactor 1, and instead try to process the contaminated water in the basement using the AREVA's system and put it back into the reactor core. However, without knowing what nuclides are still in the water after the treatment, is it safe to circulate this water? The more this water circulates, the radioactive materials not treated by the AREVA's system will increase in the water.
Neither NISA nor Hosono seems to think the current situation is acceptable. But will the detailed information be disclosed? It is rumored that the final cost of processing the contaminated water will run up to over 10 trillion yen (US$123 billion). The system that costly, and the details are not disclosed. Not only am I not satisfied with this non-disclosure, but I am also doubtful whether the accident is really being wound down.
I believe there should be a 3rd-party organization, other than TEPCO, to check the progress of the "roadmap" as soon as possible. A nuclear power plants is an ultra-complex system, and it is easy to fool a layman. It may be necessary to have people with the experience in working in the nuclear power plants in such an organization.