Sunday, August 25, 2013

Russia Offers Help to TEPCO to Clean Up #Fukushima I Nuke Plant


I remember Russia invited fishermen in Fukushima to relocate to Russian Siberia right after the start of the nuclear accident in March 2011 and to fish there, instead of trying (in vain) to make a living off the water being contaminated with radioactive materials from the plant. I don't think anyone took up the offer.

According to Bloomberg News article, Russia reiterated the offer to help, just as they had been ready in 2011 if asked by the Japanese government. The request for help never went to Russia under the DPJ administrations under Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda.

For that matter, they never requested any help from any country, and they (practically) declined help when offered. TEPCO privately asked the US military for help in the first weeks of the accident, and was reportedly severely scolded by the Kan administration. The only incident I know of in which a foreign help (the US military) was accepted was to extinguish fire that broke out in Reactor 4 in March 2011.

(I said "practically" above, as what they did was to do the Sir Humphrey - "Thank you, we will be planning to form a committee to study whether it is feasible to consider accepting your offer, and we will get back to you as soon as reasonably possible, under the circumstance, if you know what we mean.".)

Russian officials say things have started to change under the new LDP administration.

From Bloomberg News (8/25/2013; emphasis is mine):

Russia Offers to Help Clean Up Fukushima as Tepco Calls for Help
By Yuriy Humber & Jacob Adelman - Aug 25, 2013 3:33 PM PT

Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean-up its accident-ravaged Fukushima nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s decision to seek outside help.

As Tokyo Electric pumps thousands of metric tons of water through the wrecked Fukushima station to cool its melted cores, the tainted run-off was found to be leaking into groundwater and the ocean. The approach to cooling and decommissioning the station will need to change and include technologies developed outside of Japan if the clean-up is to succeed, said Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom, the state-owned Russian nuclear utility.

“In our globalized nuclear industry we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Asmolov said. Since Japan’s new government took over in December, talks on cooperating between the two countries on the Fukushima clean-up have turned “positive” and Russia is ready to offer its assistance, he said by phone from Moscow last week.

After 29 months of trying to contain radiation from Fukushima’s molten atomic cores, Tokyo Electric said last week it will reach out for international expertise in handling the crisis. The water leaks alone have so far sent more than 100 times the annual norms of radioactive elements into the ocean, raising concern it will enter the food chain through fish.

‘Last to Realize’

The latest leak of 300 metric tons of irradiated water prompted Japan’s nuclear regulator to label the incident “serious” and question Tokyo Electric’s ability to deal with the crisis, echoing comments made by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month. Zengo Aizawa, a vice president at Tepco, as the Tokyo-based utility is known, made the call for help at a press briefing in Japan’s capital on Aug. 21.

“It was clear for a long time that Tepco was not adequately coping with the situation,” Asmolov said. “It looks like Tepco management were the last to realize this,” he said. “Japan has the technologies to do this, but they lacked a system to deal with this kind of situation.”

The Fukushima accident of March 2011 is the world’s biggest nuclear disaster since the Soviet Union faced the explosion at Chernobyl in 1986.

So far, Tokyo’s solution to cooling melted nuclear rods at Fukushima that otherwise could overheat into criticality, or a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction, has been to pour water over them. That’s left more than 330,000 tons of irradiated water in storage tanks at the site so far. The water is treated to remove some of the cesium particles in it, which in turn leaves behind contaminated filters.

...The idea of pumping water for cooling was never going to be anything but a “machine for generating radioactive water,” Asmolov said. Other more complex methods such as the use of special absorbents like thermoxide to clean contaminated water and the introduction of air cooling should be used, he said.

Russia’s nuclear company, Rosatom, of which Rosenergoatom is a unit, sent Japan a 5 kilogram (11 pound) sample of an absorbent that could be used at Fukushima almost three years ago, Asmolov said. It also formed working groups ready to help Japan on health effect assessment, decontamination, and fuel management, among others, Asmolov said. The assistance was never used, he said.

“Since the arrival of the new Japanese government, the attitude’s changed,” he said. “So far the talks have been on a diplomatic level, but they are much more positive. And we remain open to working together on this issue. To follow developments I monitor Fukushima news every morning.”

Tap Experts

Japan can tap experts in France and the U.S. as well as Russia to help it tackle the situation at Fukushima, he said.

The U.S.’s long history with atomic research, including the nuclear weapons site at the Hanford Engineer Works in Washington state, has provided expertise in cleaning up contaminated sites, said Kathryn Higley, who heads the nuclear engineering and radiation health physics department at Oregon State University in Corvallis.

“We have individuals that are working on groundwater contamination and using technology and developing new technologies to clean up strontium in groundwater, for example, at the Hanford site,” she said. “So there are individuals around the world that have been doing this and certainly they would be more than willing to help in this process.”

France’s Areva SA (AREVA) had designed a radiation filtration system that was used for several months at the Fukushima site as temporary cover before Tepco installed its own facilities. Japanese delegations have also visited U.S. nuclear waste sites together with CH2M Hill Cos., an engineering company based in Englewood, Colorado.

This month a group of 17 Japanese companies including Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) formed an association, called International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, to support Tepco’s clean-up efforts.

(Full article at the link)


I don't think much at all about the industry association mentioned in the last paragraph above. It has been set up by the administrative guidance from Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and Agency of Natural Resources and Energy (the one who "assumed" 300-tonne groundwater "leak"), with nuclear and radiation scientists and experts on the panel, which includes scientists like Professor Sekimoto of Tokyo University.

I remember Professor Sekimoto very well, who appeared on NHK non-stop right after it was apparent that there was something wrong at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. To the jittery nation, he spoke calmly and nonchalantly that the whole thing was no big deal, even after the explosion that blew off the top floor of Reactor 1.

The METI consortium looks like an effort to defend the turf, so to speak, and probably to prevent, in an unofficial way, TEPCO from directly seeking help.

Big money at stake in decommissioning the plant, although I doubt that the motive is all about money. It may be a smart move for Prime Minister Abe if he accepts the offer.

Rosatom by the way is the one who's building a floating nuclear power plant.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Bloomberg should probably say "contaminated water" rather than "irradiated water".

Beppe

Anonymous said...

Speaking of "turf," what about the below as an example of Japan's newfound willingness to allow international help?

JAPANESE NUCLEAR DISASTER AREA CLEARED OF CONTAMINATED TURF WITH BRITISH-SUPPLIED MACHINES (20 August 2013)

http://www.sourcewire.com/news/79256/japanese-nuclear-disaster-area-cleared-of-contaminated-turf-with-british-supplied

Is this more Kabuki theatre, or something more positive? The above "news" is, after all, just a press release from the machine maker.

Anonymous said...

So if the US scientists have been working to develop a way to clean up Hanford WA nuclear dump site which is currently leaking/or has leaked into the Columbia River--why have they not stopped the leaking tanks? Why hasnt the stronium been cleaned up if they are so successful? Because, they are still experimenting. Not a good idea to experiment on Fukushima unless they have a REAL SOLUTION. We keep promising..without results. So WHO is the wiz kid group able to clean up the stronium in groundwater being advertised as a fix? Actions..not words Mr. Government...

Anonymous said...

UHM...and why do they have to "clean" up Hanford, WA Nuclear site? Or develop new techonology for "said" cleanup. Did something get spilled..? (sarcasm). Ask the WA State Governor.."no immediate danger"..is his latest press comment I have read..NID is similar to Japan's comments on Fukushima.

Anonymous said...

Humans.

I wonder when people will realize that the best way to solve problems is to tackle them at the root, instead of sweeping them under the carpet, pretending there isn't a problem, and bullying everyone else into following suit.

Probably never.

Anonymous said...

Rosatom is probably just wanting to appear to be useful while fishing for spare used parts. Fire sale stuff !--or should that be Fukushima sale stuff. Their new floating nuke plant will be surrounded by waters that no one will ever check for contamination unless they want to lose their job, or worse.

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