So what's the trick?
Reading the Bloomberg article linked below, the trick seems to be that Kurion wouldn't be liable under the ratified treaty even if Kurion's patented system to remove TRITIUM (really?) doesn't work or fails to deliver or causes damage. Only the plant operator, in this case TEPCO, would be held liable.
Kurion's cesium absorption system was sold by then-US Energy Secretary and Nobel Prize winner Steven Chu in 2011, right after the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident. As with any system installed at the plant after the accident, Kurion's cesium absorption system was plagued with problems from the beginning (too many to list here, but browse through these posts) and sub-par performance. TEPCO stopped using it when Toshiba's SARRY came online in October 2011.
A quick check on Kurion's website shows the current CEO of the company from France's AREVA with close ties with the US Department of Energy, and two people whose career was with the Department of Energy, and one former researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The company was founded by a venture capital in 2008.
Now the new Secretary of Energy is trying to peddle a new system from the same company - tritium removal system. Just like the cesium absorption system, Kurion and the US Department of Energy probably want to use Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant as a test site for unproven or prototype technology, with liability safely on TEPCO, a clueless, technologically-blind plant operator.
From Bloomberg News (11/3/2013; emphasis is mine):
U.S. Says Japan Signing Liability Pact Would Aid Nuclear Cleanup
Japan will receive international help with the cleanup at the Fukushima atomic station once it joins an existing treaty that defines liability for accidents at nuclear plants, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said.
The treaty, known as the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, assigns accident liability to plant operators rather than equipment and technology vendors, Moniz said in a Nov. 2 interview in Tokyo. The treaty includes setting up a fund for victims of nuclear accidents and a standard for compensation claims.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi and other officials showed an “eagerness” during meetings last week for expertise from abroad to decommission the Fukushima plant, Moniz said. Such help will be easier to secure once Japan ratifies the treaty, he said.
“As one gets into the real work, then these liability conventions become quite important,” Moniz said. “Certainly Prime Minster Abe and Minster Motegi both emphasize that the importance of moving on this in 2014 is to a large extent driven by their openness and their desire to get as much international help as they can.”
The Compensation for Nuclear Damage treaty was adopted in 1997 under the International Atomic Energy Agency and had 16 signatories as of June 24 this year, including the U.S., India and Italy.
At least five signatories must ratify the treaty to enact it. So far, the U.S., Romania, Morocco and Argentina have ratified. So Japan joining would bring it into force, Moniz said.
Legislation ratifying the convention could be introduced to parliament early next year, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida told reporters on Nov. 1, Kyodo news reported.
Under the pact, a company such a Irvine, California-based Kurion Inc., which possesses technology for removing the radioactive isotope tritium from contaminated water, could deploy its technology at the Fukushima plant, Moniz said.
Liability would rest with Tepco, as the plant’s operator is known, he said.
(Full article at the link)
If the Abe administration is indeed "eager" for the international (read United States here) expertise that will come by ratifying the treaty, it will probably be not particularly for the expertise, as far as I see it.
It will be for the fund to be set up for the victims and a set standard for compensation, I think, which must be more advantageous to the government than what (sort of) exists currently (i.e. saving tons of money for the government).
It would be amazing, to me, if the countries who have already ratified the treaty actually allows Japan to join them, after the fact (=nuclear accident).
Kurion's press release on their tritium-removing technology is copied below. (Please let me know if there is more to it than meets the eye, as I cannot picture a system from the press release that will treat over 100,000 tonnes of water that are in the storage tanks and turbine building basements at Fukushima I Nuke Plant...)
Kurion Introduces Tritium Removal Technology to Limit Release of Radionuclides into Environment
Originally Published on 09/30/2013
Patent-pending Modular Detritiation System™ Strengthens Clean, Safe Value of Nuclear Power
Kurion, Inc., an innovator in nuclear and hazardous waste management, announced a breakthrough in the treatment of the historically difficult to capture isotope with the introduction of its patent-pending Modular Detritiation System™ (MDS™) to decontaminate tritiated water. The ability to perform light water detritiation (i.e., the removal of tritium from water) enables the safe release of purified water into the environment or recycling of reactor cooling water. The technology has applications for light water reactors, which are the dominant nuclear plant designs worldwide.
The decontamination of tritium (T) is particularly problematic: it is a special form of hydrogen that forms tritiated water (HTO vs. H2O), which does not lend itself to removal by conventional technologies. This is because instead of the contaminant being carried along in water in suspended or dissolved form, the water molecule itself is modified. As a result, tritiated water is particularly difficult to treat and can spread easily if it escapes into the environment.
“Preventing the release of tritium into the environment represents one of the last remaining environmental challenges for nuclear energy,” said Bill Gallo, chief executive officer of Kurion. “The key value of Kurion’s patent-pending detritiation technology is that it offers an economical alternative to releasing tritium into the environment and bolsters the appeal of nuclear power as a clean, safe energy source.”
John Raymont, Kurion founder and president of international operations, added, “Historically, nuclear power plants were forced to release tritium into the environment because there was no method to remove it economically. Kurion’s new detritiation system now offers a technology-based alternative with the benefit of addressing the public's concern over environmental release.”
The industrial process of removing tritium from water has historically focused on cleaning highly contaminated “heavy water” for recycling back into nuclear reactors, such as for the CANDU design. However, this technology is prohibitively expensive for use with light water reactors. The Kurion MDS™ builds upon proven heavy water solutions and makes advances in throughput and efficiency where the tritium removal occurs. Kurion has developed an economical solution that – for the first time – would allow for recycling or clean release of reactor cooling water for light pressurized water reactors.