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Earth Japan Technology

Fixing Fukushima's Water Problem 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the please-don't-drink dept.
Lasrick writes "This is an excellent analysis of exactly what the problems are at Fukushima, and what risks are posed to the public. From the article: 'The operator of Fukushima Daiichi, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), has worked hard and has indeed contained most of the significant contamination carried by water used to cool the plant’s damaged reactor cores. Still, a series of events—including significant leakage from tanks built to hold radioactive water—has eroded public confidence. To address the water challenges, an improved water management plan should be created to deal with all levels of contamination, from slightly contaminated groundwater to highly radioactive cooling water flowing out of the damaged cores. This plan needs to build on the many good Tepco efforts of the past two years, but it should also incorporate new technologies that improve water cleanup performance and increase processing capacities. Importantly, this plan needs to include a new level of transparency for and outreach to the Japanese public, so citizens can understand and have confidence in the ultimate solution to the Fukushima water problem, which will almost certainly require the release of water—treated so it conforms to Japanese and international radioactivity standards—into the sea.'"
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Fixing Fukushima's Water Problem

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  • Just get on with it guys, you know you want to.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    The only effective way to treat radioactive water is to store it until the radioactivity goes down. Anyone know if the international standard involves mixing it with a lot of non-radioactive water until the radioactivity per volume-unit is low enough? And then releasing it into the sea...
    • Re:Treatment (Score:4, Interesting)

      by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday September 09, 2013 @11:03AM (#44798375)

      I believe they mean water with radioactive material dissolved in it. So you could remove the radioactive material by precipitating it out or RO membranes or something.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Even after filtering out dissolved radioactive material you'll have a little left in the form of tritium, but it's not a huge deal as long as it isn't too concentrated. It has a relatively short half-life (~12 years) and will soon after not be an issue. There probably isn't much tritium in there in the first place anyway.

      • RO treatment has the risk of concentrating very radioactive water
        into astoundingly radioactive filter cartridges. These cartridges
        could then not be handled.

        One remedy I have not seen is transport by diluting the
        very radioactive water to a point that it is largely self shielding
        and then transport those tanks to a place where arrays of
        cartridges have been installed in large banks inside a "solid
        rock" bunker. Then filter the water, clamp seal and back fill the array
        of cartridges with sand or another mass

        • by nojayuk (567177)

          They are already using zeolite cartridges to filter radioactive cesium out of contaminated water at Fukushima. One system is called "SARRY", there are others from various manufacturers including Areva. Handling the used cartridges is done by a remote crane system, not very complex engineering. The zeolite is jacketed in a steel container which blocks nearly all of the radiation from the cesium they collect, a few grammes at most per cylinder.

          Japan has a better solution to dealing with nuclear waste than Yuc

    • If the water molecules themselves were radioactive then you would be right, however AIUI the majority of radioactivity in the wastewater from a contaminanted nuclear site like chernobyl or fukushima or even sellafield comes from disolved contaminents not from the water itself and those contaminants can be seperated from water.

      you still have to store the crap you take out of the water and probablly come contaminated membranes but that is likely much easier than storing massive ammounts of water.

    • by sjames (1099)

      The water itself is not radioactive, it's the stuff dissolved in the water that's the problem. Remove the solute and you have harmless non-radioactive water.

    • by noh8rz10 (2716597)

      1) if they're going to release it into the sea anyway, then they could just release the highly-radioactive water and let is dilute into the ocean

      2) why don't they just let the tanks evaporate over time? surely the heavy metals would stay in the remaining liquid portion, and the volume of water would steadily decrease. Soon you have a manageable amount of super radioactive water. Thoughts?

    • by qval (844544)
      I assume they are concentrating the contamination in order to have a smaller volume to store for 100+ years. Can anyone comment on: "In fact, I am writing this article while sitting on an airplane, and I am receiving more ionizing radiation from cosmic rays at this higher altitude than I would receive from drinking effluent water from the Advanced Liquid Waste Processing System. " Does this mean the 99.999% clean water from the treatment process would do no lasting damage over the rest of his life if he d
  • by Anonymous Coward

    This summary is hot garbage or a Tepco advertisement/PR damage control measure. They are beyond incompetent.

    • by Shimbo (100005)

      Sigh, read it again and try to comprehend before posting.

    • by PNutts (199112)

      This summary is hot garbage or a Tepco advertisement/PR damage control measure. They are beyond incompetent.

      I was going to go with bat-$hit crazy but then I saw he was part of the industry and his dismissive attitude is part of the problem. Japan should spend the $6 billion Olympic bid on cleanup. Too bad they didn't go $10.5 trillion in debt by modernizing their nuclear infrastructure.

  • that's from TFA. complete is 100%. fini.
  • Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lightknight (213164) on Monday September 09, 2013 @11:08AM (#44798441) Homepage

    Well, going with theoretical solutions (for 200 Alex), I'd whip up a pneumatic robot (all fluidic pressure, no electronics), and strap on a chemical laser + fiber optic lines + lens system. That should ensure that stray radiation will not damage any electronics, as it won't have any, though it will be a one way trip for the bot (still going to be highly radioactive), and watching the cables will be an issue (better pay the extra money to make sure they're braided). Then I'd send it into the reactor core, to cut up / out the still active reactor rods, and bring them to a designated midway point piece by piece.

    No human is going to survive in that core, even if they'd volunteer for the mission...nor would any electronic-based machine. The first will be cooked from the inside out, the second will get so many errors as it gets closer to the core from radiation hitting its processors that it will do more damage than good.

    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <[ten.3dlrow] [ta] [ojom]> on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:40PM (#44799871) Homepage

      A few issues. Firstly, cutting anything produces dust, and in this case the dust is highly radioactive. Controlling it is non-trivial and one of the reasons why they are extremely cautious operating in that area. If something collapsed while cutting in that area it could be disastrous.

      Secondly it isn't clear if using a laser would be safe in the cores. There is likely some hydrogen and certainly a lot of flammable material around. Without electronics it would be hard to detect or measure too.

      Finally even once the core is dissected what would you do with it? The current plan is to wait for it to become a little safer to 20 or 30 years times before even starting to look at moving it to another area for storage. The storage pools on-site are already in pretty bad shape and leaking, so you would have to take that extremely dangerous material somewhere else. Of course, no-where else wants it and Japan currently does not have any way of dealing with it.

      • The cutting is occurring under water; I'm sure that the Japanese, depending on their level of desperation, can build a test scenario to replicate the conditions in the reactor, and make adjustments before sending anything in.

        Again, the core itself is under water...you might need to move some debris to get around things, at which point multiple robots, or perhaps, multiple robots with winches / more powerful / disposable tools might be useful. If it requires two of them to remove a girder to get to the sunke

        • ...snip....

          As the core is dissected, I'd direct the robots to place each piece in a lead-lined storage pod; this needs to be done as each piece is cut off, so as to not create further metldowns;

          .....snip.....

          Lead lined???

          Enough lead to act as a shield would not have the needed thermal profile.

          You are working with meltdown temperatures that compromise
          Zircaloy or steel used in modern construction. So not lead which
          has a low melting point.

          Yes cut off bits of reactor rods (and stuff) could be dropped into stainless
          tubes, crimped tight, perhaps welded and then slipped
          into a multi layered shielded transport container to manage the
          thermal load as well as protect from external damage and internal
          leakage.

          One pending so

          • "Enough lead to act as a shield would not have the needed thermal profile."

            My solution would need to be adapted accordingly. The goal with the lead pods was not, in of themselves, to provide a permanent means of storage, but to allow the robot, while working within the reactor, to safely contain pieces of the fuel rods...because cutting fuel rods, with a laser, into thousands of pieces, then attempting to pick up those pieces later on would, in all likelihood, end badly...as the cut fuel rods / pieces, pres

  • by fnj (64210) on Monday September 09, 2013 @11:25AM (#44798699)

    Duh. Ya think, TEPCO shitheads?

    It isn't precisely the phrasing I would use. Every shred of public confidence was lost on 2011-3-11 and the few days following, and nothing done since has restored a single iota of it.

  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Monday September 09, 2013 @11:30AM (#44798753) Homepage

    So they are protecting us from over 60% of the contaminated water. Well good job then, 60% is a passing grade, so I guess this means they are doing a good job.

    • by es330td (964170)

      Well good job then, 60% is a passing grade, so I guess this means they are doing a good job.

      If at first you don't succeed, redefine the standard for success!

    • So they are protecting us from over 60% of the contaminated water.

      Emphasis on "us". I think I recall reading that "Fukushima's Water Problem" is destined to become California's water problem in 2014.

  • by Minwee (522556) <dcr@neverwhen.org> on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:06PM (#44799311) Homepage

    As I recall, the traditional way involved wearing a white robe and holding a knife in your hand while your trusted second stood behind you with his sword drawn, ready to finish the job.

    The modern way seems to involve holding a press conference in which you say "Gosh, we don't know how that went wrong. It certainly wasn't our fault. I hope it doesn't happen again. Again." while your trusted second brings you a coffee.

    I'm sure that one of those approaches will suffice to restore TEPCO's spotless public image.

  • Or not! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:08PM (#44799343)

    In fact they don't know where the core is!

    It could be in the lower parts of the building, but most likely much of it has melted down far into the ground. How far, nobody knows. It may be in the water table. There is sporadic evidence of ongoing fission at the sites.

    They neither have it under control, nor contained.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Japan Nuclear Expert: “We don’t even know at this point where the melted down core is” under Reactors No. 1, 2 or 3

      http://www.nuc.berkeley.edu/forum/218/japan-nuclear-expert-%E2%80%9Cwe-don%E2%80%99t-even-know-point-where-melted-down-core-is%E2%80%9D-under-reactors-n

  • Nuke it from orbit. Only way to be sure. In fact the same procedure could be used on tepco official and management to good effect.
  • - pretending that this a public relations problem.
  • by sugarmatic (232216) on Monday September 09, 2013 @12:38PM (#44799837)

    ...and Fukushima is a perfect example.

    In the months following the incident, the press was hyping the accident to ethereal levels.

    In the years following the incident, the US nuclear industry groups busily developed counter propaganda, using official measurements and downplaying risks ("1% greater chance of dying from cancer for 77 people") and the like. Carefully written op-ed and science pieces appeared all over the press from the Smart Serious People in the room, to soothe a worried public, that their superior assessment of the situation proved the concerns of pollution would become cautionary tales of hysteria.

    The Japanese government deliberately withheld information until after the election, and now the pollution levels emanating form the plant render many the carefully written, I-told-you-it-was-hysteria explanations, riddled in Smug by the Serious Persons seem pretty silly, if not entertaining, to read.

    If anything can be drawn from all this, it is, "It ain't over till it's over..."

    • by doom (14564)

      The Japanese government deliberately withheld information until after the election, and now the pollution levels emanating form the plant render many the carefully written, I-told-you-it-was-hysteria explanations, riddled in Smug by the Serious Persons seem pretty silly, if not entertaining, to read.

      And if it turns out that your present impression of how bad the problem is is wrong, will you be apologizing for having been so smug and superior right here?

      (But wait... how would you ever know? If an exper

    • by MSG (12810)

      1% greater chance of dying from cancer for 77 people

      Even that's exaggerated. There are an estimated ~2000 people who face an elevated risk of thyroid cancer. Even with that elevated risk, there is never expected to be a statistically measurable increase in the actual development of thyroid cancer.

      And thyroid cancer is treatable. It has a 97% survival rate. Those people are going to be screened annually. They're probably going to be just fine.

  • I thought I read, "Fucking Fukushima's Water Problem." Angsty submissions today!

  • The possibility of negligence from nonfeasance should be the one thing to allow the Japanese Government to save face. I don't think Japan should feel any shame in receiving help by all governments who share the pacific.

    The engineering effort of this boggles the mind and many sorts of expertise will need to be brought to bare to resolve it as quickly as possible AND produce a long term solution. This is well beyond TEPCO's ability and will require resources that transcend their capabilities after all their

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