Thursday, December 5, 2013

US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman: IAEA's Recommendation to Release Water from #Fukushima I NPP Appropriate

US NRC Chairman Allison MacFarlene is in Japan right now, and she spoke with the reporters on December 6 at the US Embassy in Tokyo.

From Jiji Tsushin (12/6/2013):


It is appropriate to consider releasing the contaminated water, as IAEA recommended, says US NRC Chairman


US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) chairman MacFarlane indicated her support for the IAEA recommendation to consider releasing the contaminated water accumulating at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant as the result of the nuclear accident into the ocean. She said the recommendation was appropriate. She spoke with the press at the United States Embassy in Tokyo.


The IAEA delegation issued a report on December 4 that recommended considering alternatives including releasing into the ocean if radioactive materials in the water are below the legal limit.


Chairman MacFarlane was asked about reporting in the US on the effect of radioactive contaminants from the Fukushima I NPP accident on the west coast of the US. She pointed out that it was natural for people to worry about the effect of radiation, but she referred to the estimate that "the density of radioactive materials that will reach the US (coastal water) will be less than 1/100th of the standard set for drinking water" and called for calm response.

Other than certain blogs and websites that continue to grossly exaggerate the Fukushima nuclear accident (almost to the point of falsifying, by withholding or ignoring data and by declaring "they lie") after nearly two years and 9 months, I don't see much reporting on the Fukushima accident in the US.

There is no mention of the press conference at the US Embassy website yet.

In order to release the treated water from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, ALPS has to be in full operation (to remove gamma nuclides other than cesium, and alpha and beta nuclides (including strontium)), but it isn't. The system continues to have minor problems that prevent the system from operating fully. Then, currently there is no large-scale system that could remove tritium (whatever the US Energy Secretary says about Kurion), thus dilution as recommended by IAEA.


By the way, the US NRC has been ordered to resume the licensing review of Yucca Mountain Waste Repository, after the "US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 2-1 decision August 13 that NRC had violated the law when it suspended the congressionally mandated review of the Yucca Mountain repository license application in 2011 and ordered the agency to restart that process".

From (11/18/2013; emphasis is mine):

US NRC to resume Yucca Mountain waste repository licensing review

The commissioners of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission ordered agency staff Monday to complete and publish a safety evaluation report on the proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada, nuclear spent fuel and waste repository.

"The Commission has also requested [Department of Energy] to prepare a supplemental environmental impact statement requested by the staff in order to complete [NRC's] environmental review of the application," NRC said in a statement Monday.

The multi-volume safety evaluation report, or SER, reflects NRC staff's assessment of the repository proposed for the site roughly 95 miles (about 153 km) outside Las Vegas and is considered in NRC's determination of whether the facility would meet regulatory requirements. Volume 3 on the post-closure safety of a repository at Yucca Mountain is central to making that determination.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the US nuclear power industry, was among those who have recommended that completion of the SER be a top NRC priority. NEI did not respond immediately Monday to a request for comment on the commission's order.


NRC spokesman David McIntyre said in a post Monday on the agency's blog that the commission's order does not "signal that a licensing decision is imminent. Before a final licensing decision can be made, the adjudicatory hearing must be completed, and the Commission must perform its own review."

Calls for completion of the SER were included in comments NRC staff and licensing participants filed with the commission September 30.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said in a 2-1 decision August 13 that NRC had violated the law when it suspended the congressionally mandated review of the Yucca Mountain repository license application in 2011 and ordered the agency to restart that process.

Gregory Jaczko, the NRC chairman in 2011, attributed the suspension to NRC's lack of funds to complete the work. The agency began what it called an "orderly closure" of its Yucca licensing activities in 2010, the same year DOE dismantled the Yucca Mountain program and left the repository license application at NRC under review.

NRC staff estimated in comments to the commission in September that it is possible SER Volumes 2-5 could be completed in about 12 months at a total cost of less than $11.1 million, the amount of carryover funds NRC has available to complete the review.

DOE told the commission in its comments that the department "is committed to complying as expeditiously as possible with any NRC order, subject to the availability of funds." DOE said it has about $15.4 million in unobligated Yucca carryover funds that could be used to support participation in an NRC licensing proceeding. The department added that it also has $29.5 million in Nuclear Waste Fund money that is obligated on existing contracts and that about $18.1 million of that obligated money could be used for DOE work needed to support an NRC licensing proceeding.

NRC's McIntyre said Monday that the commission's order does not direct staff to resume an NRC licensing board's adjudicatory hearing on the application, nor does it reactivate the Licensing Support Network, or LSN, a system created by NRC as a web-based document storage and retrieval system that could be used as tool during legal discovery in a Yucca licensing proceeding.

"The Commission said it would consider the future of the LSN and the adjudicatory hearing once the tasks it directed today are completed and it can determine what tasks it can perform with whatever available funds remain," McIntyre said.


Anonymous said...

I am not sure whether the ALPS problems are minor or not but, after 2 yrs and 9 months of throwing water the filtering is not yet in place. Had it been a money making operation things might have been different.
Tepco needs to be removed from managing the disaster it caused in the first place.


Anonymous said...

They're only ever concerned about whether the radiation will obviously reach another land mass, but they don't seem to ever consider what the radiation will do to everything in the ocean.

People often forget we're still on the same planet as the ocean. The effects of dumping all sorts of shit there will eventually come back to us. But I guess nobody ever cares about that since they won't be around to suffer from it.

netudiant said...

The ALPS system is new engineering, afaik, so it is unsurprising that it would take some time to develop and to debug operationally.
The kind of comprehensive radioactive contaminant cleanup that it is designed to achieve is unprecedented and a substantial achievement.
The system does not remove tritium and there is no system that does.

The Kurion offering is reported to be an extension of the Canadian tritium removal system, which serves to remove tritium from the heavy water used to moderate their Candu reactors. The amounts of water to be treated at Fukushima are about a thousand times more than the volumes processed in Canada, so there would be large engineering challenges to adapt the technology. It would be reasonable to assume a five year interval at a minimum before it would be operational, assuming it were demonstrated to work.

Anonymous said...

forgetting rubber mats inside that ALPS tanks is a kind of ineptitude that does not originate from new technology; more likely is the same shoddiness that originated the accident in the first place.
Furthermore, it is inacceptable that we need to wait for new technology to be developed *after* a nuclear disaster has occoured. This research should have been done *before* the accident, at the latest after Chernobyl. Again, had it been a money making business I guess the nuclear industry would have been more proactive.
The nuclear industry must stop externalizing the costs of handling the poisons it produces.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, ALPS is NOT an achievement -- not until it works.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:33,

netudiant appears to have been referring to ALPS' sales team. The "2 yrs and 9 months" that Beppe referred to has also seen a National Security Council-type body formed in Japanese government, a Secrecy Act to thwart whistleblowing, and the NRC putting its stamp of approval on dumping huge volumes of contaminated water directly into the Pacific fishery.

Japan refused direct massive financial help in decontaminating in that 2yrs. 9mos., and that also may be a sales team "achievement", also.

Salespeak Really does care what you think, it Really does.

netudiant said...

Just to wrap up on this thread, it seems a done deal that the ALPS treated water will be released, despite its elevated tritium content.
The IAEA has blessed it, the Japanese government obviously wants it, so it will get done.
Imho, it would be more productive to pay close attention to the ALPS reports than to highlight the tritium issue. The tritium is exchanged fairly quickly in the body, unlike strontium or other heavy metals.
The contamination effects can be minimized if ALPS works well, but I fear that the pressures to 'play ball' will push people to allow inadequately cleaned water to be released. As a multiple ion removal process, ALPS may be working great for some contaminants while failing dismally on others. I know of no agreed on standard for releasing the treated water, so it may be that it is declared clean simply by virtue of passing through ALPS. This would be expedient, but would not be a correct conclusion.
However, whether anyone in Japan could report such an outcome without risking a jail sentence is uncertain.

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