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Nuclear Energy Fuel removal progress at Fukushima reactor unit #4 (TEPCO)

Published on August 20th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


TEPCO Concedes Failure of Fukushima Ice Wall

August 20th, 2014 by  

Fukushima ice wall and other TEPCO contaminant isolation schemes (TEPCO)

Less than a week ago, Naohiro Masuda, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Chief Decommissioning Officer, spoke about development of the “ice wall” around the four ruined  reactor units at the Fukushima I power station. In the company’s regular “prompt report,” the decommission head said that along with other measures, the $0.3 billion Fukushima ice wall would continue to “contribute to further improving water management at the site.”

Different story on Tuesday, August 19. TEPCO officials told Japanese nuclear regulators that the section of ice wall between the unit #2 turbine building and the cable tunnel—-estimated to hold 5-6,000 tons of highly radioactive water—-was not working. As we reported on June 6, workers from a TEPCO subcontractor, Kajioma Corp., had been tasked to install 1,500 thin tubes of refrigerant at -30° C a meter (3 ft) apart and up to 30 meters (100 ft) underground. The soil thus frozen would create an impervious wall about two meters thick (over 6 ft) around the wrecked reactors.

TEPCO administrators said Tuesday that although they had injected more than 400 tons of ice and dry ice to freeze radioactive water in this section of the Fukushima ice wall, the temperature did not fall low enough and the strategy did not work. The company now plans to start using filler in mid-September to slow the flow of water in the unfrozen section. They expect that doing so will enable it to freeze.

The Japan Times and Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) each reported yesterday that “at Tuesday’s meeting, NRA members and experts questioned or even expressed doubt about the effectiveness of the measure.” Nonetheless, TEPCO concluded that it would continue applying the ice in hopes of isolating the contaminants.

Also this summer:

  • Reactor unit #5, previously thought safe, developed a leak that threatened overheating within two weeks.
  • The groundwater bypass operation for contaminant isolation did not significantly reduce the amount of highly radioactive water at three wells examined. TEPCO attributed some of the problem to rain and announced plans to cover soil near the wells with asphalt by the end of next March.
  • Full-scale operation of the advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) for contaminant removal will now not begin until December.
  • Ancillary water treatment facilities, including tritium removal, will not come online until at least September and October.
  • Questions continued about the unskilled, disadvantaged labor pool and its reported connections to Japanese organized crime.
  • Available tank water storage capacity continued to diminish.

Fuel removal progress at Fukushima reactor unit #4 (TEPCO)At the exposed secondary containment pool of unit #4, fuel has been about 75% cleared. 1166 of 1,331 spent fuel assemblies have been moved to safer storage, and 22 of 202 new assemblies have been transferred. The cask has been transported 54 times. However, removal has had to halt for several months to do an annual check on the overhead crane. It is expected to be completed later this year.

A seaside impermeable wall and a subdrain system are reportedly ready for approval from the regulator and the other important stakeholders.

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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

  • dinkydave

    Woah! This old steel plant electrician picks up on “halt for several months to do annual safety checks on an overhead crane” A fair amount of my career has been on cranes similar to the beautiful new Hitachi pictured other places. Yes, they all need maintenance–check control panels, grease the bearings, oil in the gear boxes, like that. Down for several months on an almost new crane sounds very suspicious to me. Maybe it’s already so “hot” it’s almost impossible to work on, but really want to hear more details on that job.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Good catch. Either a mistake in the write up or they’re dealing with piece of equipment too radioactive to service.

      • dinkydave

        Thanks. What I wanted to hint was, even worse, some non crane problem they don’t want to admit to. Waay too much practice distrusting authority lately.

        • Bob_Wallace

          You can probably tell us how long it takes to mount and remove a large crane. Something tells me it’s far less than several months.

          If this one was simply faulty they could snatch it out and replace it.

          • dinkydave

            Good thread. Lead time on a new unit like that would likely be about a year. *But* if you can work on it, motors could burn up, it could literally fall off rails, you could get it back in service in a day or so. *Iff* people could get to it to work on. Or, as I more think, something even worse is being covered up. Hope we don’t find out in some horrible way.

  • J S

    How did they freeze the ground UNDER the reactors?
    Or does water only flow to the sides? /s

  • CaptD

    No One Wants You to Know How Bad Fukushima Might Still Be https://news.vice.com/article/no-one-wants-you-to-know-how-bad-fukushima-might-still-be via @vicenews

  • Peter R Mare

    Lets ask some questions? Local police forces throughout America have military grade vehicles of mass destruction, similar to the weapons police use in middle east. Irradiation of Earth was supposed to happen during the cold war, not now, after we reduced our weapons of mass destruction into a pile of mediocre destruction. Disposing of nuclear waste became a problem when WIPP closed down and Hanford admits to coverup of leaking nuclear tanks. Japan law forbids talking about their citizens slow death and deformation into genetic aliens. The question is: “How long It Will Be Before Marshal Law Is Declared?”

    • Bob_Wallace

      Oh, nurse, is it pill time yet?

  • CaptD

    Who questions the Nuclear Experts beliefs when it come to risk taking?

    At some point, perhaps gross denial is best left for mental professionals with other types of training.

    Case in Point, Japan is now suffering with a Trillion Dollar Nuclear Eco-Disaster, yet most nuclear experts and elected Officials consider that it, in effect, is “no big deal”:

    . Polluted Ocean, N☢ Problem, it will get better after a while….

    . Polluted Fields, N☢ Problem, they can remove the upper layer

    . Polluted Air, N☢ Problem, they can wear paper masks for a while

    . Polluted Food, N☢ Problem, they can mix the good to dilute the bad

    . Polluted Homes, N☢ Problem, they can power wash them clean

    . Polluted Schools. N☢ Problem, they can clean them

    . Polluted Cities, N☢ Problem, they can return soon…

    The Fukushima disaster is an example of a case where something like a meltdown with a once per 100,000 years probably not only occurred, but occurred 3 times in less than a week!

    Since many elected Leaders & Nuclear Professionals were “surprised” by Fukushima, perhaps Business Insider would consider a followup Blog article, asking this question:

    Are our Nuclear Power Plants really safe from whatever Nature can throw at them, because if they are not, then global Nuclear Regulators need to begin both internal and external studies ASAP to reevaluate Nuclear Safety before something occurs that we thought never would happen, AGAIN…

    Posted: http://www.sfgate.com/news/crime/article/Panel-wants-TEPCO-execs-charged-over-nuke-crisis-5658634.php and many other sites prior…

  • CaptD

    The Japanese Gov’t. now owns TEPCO so it is no longer right to separate what TEPCO does from being what the Japanese Gov’t. has decided to do.


    Warning: The Japanese Gov’t. now owns TEPCO yet uses it as an escape goat for all Fukushima’s ongoing ☢ Pollution! Unsaid is what happened to all the highly radioactive material that was removed by the Utility Gangs and more importantly where it will end up, especially if it is used in a dirty explosion, which will give “Made in Japan” an entirely new meaning… :-0

    Posted 02-11-14 http://timesofindia.indiatimes

  • CaptD

    Here is some useful information about Fukushima from a blog in AU that has been at the forefront of what is happening at Fukushima since 3/11/11 if not before:
    The Geology of Fukushima. Porous ground, lowered 10 metros, built over an aquifer with a fault line present, with basements below sea level


    p.s. I “liked” it back then and still do today

  • Wayne Williamson

    Just wondering why they didn’t use liquid Nitrogen. Nitrogen is a liquid, and dry ice is not…..

  • If this was a subsurface remediation technology blog, I’m sure I’d be called a troll or even worse, an engineer. One quick read about this specific cryogenic groundwater containment and contaminant migration control on the coast – and freezing point depression comes to mind. Salt water intrusion. Another is soil type and soil porosity: if groundwater flow is too copious, much of the added heat (or cold) get’s taken away from the volume being focused upon. Engineering feasibility kind of is a drag, but kind of necessary. Experience helps, too.

    Much of Fukushima remediation work was done under “emergency response” mode. This is when every giant international engineering and construction company comes in to help out as project lead, followed by environmental consultants and geotechnical consulting firms, followed by local expertise, followed by technology salesmen from every corner of the world. Subsurface containment walls and curtains (not locked into the underlying bedrock) of various types and technologies are used around building foundations, perimeters surrounding hazardous waste landfills, hard rock mines for water control into the mine and heavy metal migration out. With money flowing like water from a fire hose, the standard process of feasibility evaluation get’s thrown out the door.

    Fukushima demolition and remediation is on it’s way to costing $250 billion. Maybe it’s already passed that. There may have been an excuse for this, if it happened around 1980. Feigning ignorance after about 1985 is unacceptable. The plant was built when plate tectonics was still being debated. It was in geology text books by a the early/mid 1980s. Preventative measures, modifications and upgrades to the plant’s structure should have been employed. And there is hardly any excuse for subsurface containment failure, beyond trial, piloting, and interim measure.

    This is why one does environmental assessment, environmental impact analysis and other seemingly cumbersome preliminary things for development and deployment of new and cool technologies. We will be doing a lot of things under emergency response mode as a result of climate change acceleration.

    • Vensonata

      Plate tectonics may have been uncertain in1985. But the Japanese culture knew about Tsunami’s for millennia. No, there is no excuse. And we hear strange things on all sides about this event. George Monbiot, the Guardian newspaper environmental reporter decided that nuclear was the way to go after this incident because of the “minimal” damage from unthinkably powerful forces. Go Figure! From my point of view they got lucky in the face of perfectly obvious catastrophic event possibilities…large earthquake and tsunami, well what a surprise on the coast of Japan! Throw in the human corruption factor..(.for Engineers that’s symbolized in the mathematical formula as a skull and cross bones), and something called politicians and voila! we have a good reason not to go nuclear and to get on with the clean renewable evolution.

      • Nicely said. Then there’s the planned (or somewhere in the concept phase) for high level nuclear waste and spent fuel rods reclamation and reprocessing and disposal facilities. Or maybe one facility. Illinois was pointed at by Senate as the best spot for spent fuel reclamation and reprocessing. This is due to Illinois’ central location and a lions share of spent fuel already sitting around. New Mexico and Texas are thinking it may be nice to have a piece of this. Tons of money will flow. Let’s hope someone along the way thinks things through. This is in an era of many who think all governmental regulations are bad and libertarianism (i.e., there’s always a market solution if you just leave entrepreneurs alone) is good.

        My recommendation in a world of ever increasing impacts from climate change and changing energy mix, is to put older and near retirement age engineers, scientists, economists, construction managers et al in the position of people’s checkers. This assumes many federal agencies will be ever increasingly defanged or eliminated. And given all these public/private partnership deals going down, the public seems to be getting the raw deal. I don’t recommend conscription of the old folks as checkers. I do recommend that absolutely no revolving doors will be spinning between public and private sector. And any checkers, who does a deal with the private side, get’s publicly shamed some how. Or sent to Guantanamo to live out their latter years.

    • eveee

      Yes. One does all those things. Then throws the report away and proceeds anyway. When one has industry government revolving doors. Lets face it. They decided to build nuclear power plants first. Then they decided how they were going to get around any objections.

      • Japanese taxpayers and electricity ratepayers can only hope there was a feasibility study and preliminary investigation reports prepared sometime in the 1960s. A those documents are sitting on a shelf, in a file box, waiting for discovery. The general process of most builds written up for record, where the public trust is involved, includes: investigation, feasibility, design, construction, and operations plans. These are general submittals. If you’re living in a dictatorship or a country controlled by a family or few, these submittals are probably not necessary. We’re not talking business consultant’s reports here.

        Many in the new modern age would prefer not to have these plans submitted. Or even the activities of investigation and feasibility performed. It’s a paper trail. For instance, let’s say you want to build something big. It needs natural resources in from the commons and expels waste out to the commons. This is the classic private property versus commons argument. A preliminary investigation may find something physically detrimental, indicating potential folly. Feasibility may find that the technical staff or engineer of record thought there may be problems or there were potentially better options, but the thing was built anyway. If everything goes swimmingly, there’s not an issue. People may wonder why all that preliminary planning and report submittal was necessary. If something goes wrong and planning steps forewarned of potential problems, a paper trial of submittals may either be beneficial or detrimental. Depending on who has to pay for damage done to the commons.

        • Bob_Wallace

          There’s at least one recorded warning post-construction but pre-disaster.

          “Yukinobu Okamura, a prominent seismologist, warned of a debilitating tsunami in June 2009 at one of a series of meetings held by the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to evaluate the readiness of Daiichi, as well as Japan’s 16 other nuclear power plants, to withstand a massive natural disaster. But in the discussion about Daiichi, Okamura was rebuffed by an executive from the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, because the utility and the government believed that earthquakes posed a greater threat.

          “The 869 Jōgan earthquake and tsunami struck the area around Sendai in the northern part of Honshu on the 13 July. The earthquake had an estimated magnitude of 8.6 on the surface wave magnitude scale. The tsunami caused widespread flooding of the Sendai plain, with sand deposits being found up to 4 km from the coast.”


          • Bob_Wallace

            Wiki –

            In 1990, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) ranked the failure of the emergency electricity generators and subsequent failure of the cooling systems of plants in seismically very active regions one of the most likely risks. The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) cited this report in 2004. According to Jun Tateno, a former NISA scientist, TEPCO did not react to these warnings and did not respond with any measures.[35]

            Filmmaker Adam Curtis mentioned the risks of the type of boiling water reactors cooling systems such as those in Fukushima I,[36] and claimed the risks were known since 1971[37]in a series of documentaries in the BBC in 1992 and advised that PWR type reactors should have been used.

            Fukushima had been warned their seawall was insufficient to withstand a powerful tsunami, but the seawall height was not raised in response.


    • CaptD

      Michael Berndtson – Unlike many other blogs there is almost no name calling here which isa why many that post here do not post o other blogs that do allow name calling.

      As far as I am concerned posting by other engineers and/or people with expert knowledge only adds to the decision, especially since most readers are very interested in additional knowledge about the topics being discussed at cleantechnica.

  • PeterW

    Sorry to say: Propaganda instead of solid journalism

    Your (1) headline is grossly misleading and the (2) article shows a serious ineptitude to report the technical issues adequately.

    (1)Headline should be:Freezing of drains only 90% success. Sealants to be added.

    (2)The “ice wall”, that is the freezing of soil to provide a barrier is a different matter to the freezing of the trenches, where water is frozen. In the latter matter improvements are planned to arrive at a total seal.

    Better info for example here: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201408200056

    Or explanation of the technical matter:

    • Sandy Dechert

      Peter, thanks for your thoughts here. I spent some time researching this piece. Neither of the articles you cite was online when I submitted the article. In fact, TEPCO’s later news release itself acknowledges widespread misunderstanding of the issue. I used the sources I have cited. No propaganda or intention to mislead, and little ineptitude, I hope.

    • eveee

      The tanks are filled, there is no room left to pump out contaminated water, and the chemical processing has not worked well enough. The ice is a “last ditch” to stop the flow of radioactive water to the sea. So lets make a new headline.
      Freezing drains 90% successful in last ditch effort to stop radioactive water flowing into ocean.

      • Bob_Wallace

        And a subtitle:

        Radioactive water flows through the other 10% and out into the world.

  • Bob_Wallace

    And on another front…

    “Eager to get Japan’s nuclear-power plants restarted, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is weighing whether to offer a written statement guaranteeing plants’ safety.

    “We have received requests from local governments to guarantee the safety of specific plants–for example, in a written statement,” said Toshimitsu Motegi, the minister who oversees the power industry, at a Tokyo conference Tuesday.”


    Nothing like a written statement to assure one that nuclear is now safe.

    “Trust us, we’re the organization that brought you Fukushima. We’ll tell the whole truth (this time).”

    • Richard James Lavering

      The written statement has nothing to do with a faith in safety , and everything to do with a quick and easy (court side) transfer of all debts, obligations, and lawsuit fall outs onto the Sovereign State (Japan) , rather then having a single prefecture responsible for these costs.

      After all, in any developed country, if you promise something is safe, you assume liability 😉

  • Steve Grinwis

    IEEE. That sounds dodgy.

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