Sunday, December 11, 2011

Big problems ahead for Tepco in 2012

The obvious lesson out of the Fukushima disaster seems to be that you can't make a nuclear catastrophe go away within a years time. Given the magnitude of the crisis in Dai-ichi, creating such an expectation would merely amount to wishful thinking.

Despite Tepco's assurances that cold shutdown will be achieved by years end, it's possible that the radioactive water storage situation will spiral out of control to the point where it is no longer practical, affordable, or even physically possible to keep up with added burden. Tepco will have no recourse but to dump massive amounts of radioactive water into the pacific ocean on a regular basis. Reuters:

Tokyo Electric Power, (Tepco) the utility operating Fukushima's Daiichi plant, hit by a powerful tsunami in March that caused the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, said it was running out of space to store some of the water it treated at the plant, due to an inflow of groundwater.

"We would like to increase the number of tanks to accommodate the water but it will be difficult to do so indefinitely," Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters.

He said the plant was likely to reach its storage capacity of about 155,000 tons around March.

Tepco plans to come up with possible ways to handle radioactive waste and present its proposals to the government's nuclear regulatory body for approval.

"The government should not, and must not, approve a plan allowing Tepco to dispose treated water in the ocean," said Kenji Sumita, an emeritus professor at Osaka University who specializes in nuclear engineering.

"The reality is that semipermanent storage is the only solution available under current technological constraints. Tepco may have to find the storage space and look for a technological breakthrough in the coming years that allows it to condense and greatly reduce the volume of tainted water."

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