Process needed: Radioactive water decontamination

To be honest, I didn’t know much about nuclear power or the Fukushima incident before I started on Maybe I’m a little bit of a sheltered suburban millennial, but since I have, I’ve been astonished by the fact that we’re still dealing with the effects nearly a decade later, and there’s no end in sight anytime soon.

Over the weekend, published an article by Karyn Nishimura titled, “At Fukushima plant, a million-tonne headache: radioactive water.”  The article details how plant operators have been struggling to find a process that fully decontaminates the growing amounts of contaminated water on the site. 

Although some of the water at the site was used for cooling the plant prior to the meltdown, groundwater and rainwater seep into the site daily. In fact, Nishimura reports that 150 tons of water come into the site each day.

The water is stored in a thousand 1,200-ton tanks, which are mostly full despite TEPCO, which is in charge of dismantling the site, making attempts to limit the amount of groundwater coming in to the site.

“We will build more [storage tanks] on the site until the end of 2020, and we think the tanks will be full by around the summer of 2022,” said Junichi Matsumoto, an official with the unit of plant operator TEPCO, in the article.

Throughout the past eight years, TEPCO has improved its process for decontaminating water. The original process did not completely eliminate some of the dangerous radioactive elements like strontium 90.

“The current process is more effective, removing or reducing around 60 radionuclides to levels accepted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for water being discharged,” Nishimura reports.

However, the current process still cannot remove tritium from the contaminated water, which remains a concern for many interested groups. The IAEA argues that this water could be diluted with seawater and safely released into the ocean, but environmental concerns remain. Nushimura reports that no decision on this matter will be made anytime soon.