Fukushima operator pumps out toxic groundwater

August 10, 2013
Japanese nuclear experts inspect the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Okuma, on August 6, 2013. The operator of the crippled nuclear plant has started pumping out radioactive groundwater to reduce leakage into the Pacific ocean.

The operator of the crippled Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has started pumping out radioactive groundwater to reduce leakage into the Pacific ocean.

Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) began the work after it admitted last month that radioactive had been seeping out of the plant, confirming long-held suspicions that the sea was being contaminated.

The company said it pumped out 13 tonnes of groundwater from a well between 2:00 pm (0500 GMT) and 8:00 pm on Friday.

By mid-August, TEPCO plans to complete a new system enabling it to pump out 100 tonnes of groundwater a day. The water will be filtered and recycled to cool the reactors.

But there are growing fears that existing facilities will soon be overwhelmed, as TEPCO scrambles to find ways to process and store .

"It has been an urgent issue for us to suck out groundwater from this area as soon as possible," a TEPCO spokesman said on Friday. TEPCO officials could not be reached on Saturday.

The embattled utility—kept afloat by a government —last month admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had been leaking outside the plant.

It has since said tainted water has been escaping into the Pacific for more than two years since the atomic crisis triggered by a huge quake and tsunami in March 2011.

Danger of contaminated water leaking into the ocean at stricken Fukushima nuclear plant. The operator of the crippled nuclear plant has started pumping out radioactive groundwater to reduce leakage into the Pacific ocean.

An official at Japan's industry ministry said this week that Tokyo estimates 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater may be seeping into the ocean every day.

"But we're not certain if the water is highly contaminated," he added.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said it stood ready to help, if asked.

"The IAEA has been informed by Japanese authorities about the leakage of into the sea...and agency experts are following the issue closely," IAEA spokesman Serge Gas said.

"The agency has provided some recommendations to the Japanese authorities on the long-term management of liquid waste. The IAEA continues to be ready to provide assistance on request," he said.

Japanese officials inspect a monitoring well where high levels of radioactive materials were detected at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, on August 6, 2013. The operator of the crippled nuclear plant has started pumping out radioactive groundwater to reduce leakage into the Pacific ocean.

Jerome Joly, deputy director general of the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety which has closely monitored the disaster, said the environmental risk posed by the leaks was small compared to the overall radioactive contamination from the disaster.

"We are not seeing anything new in our measurements of the ocean water, sediment or fish. I think it is negligible."

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has recently pledged deeper public involvement into the clean-up of the Fukushima plant.

While no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the meltdowns at Fukushima, large areas around the plant had to be evacuated with tens of thousands of people still unable to return to their homes.

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3.1 / 5 (8) Aug 10, 2013
One of the biggest complaints I have about stories like these is the failure to relate numbers to something understandable.

Case in point: "The company said it pumped out 13 tonnes of groundwater from a well ... ."

How much is 13 tons of water? Is that a lot? a drop in the bucket? How many know off the top of their head?

That's about 3200 gallons or the equivalent of a 1 inch rainfall on a lot less than a 1/4 acre in size, which is a small lot for an average suburban home where I live. For beer drinkers, that's about 200 16 gallon kegs.

In other words, they didn't pump out much water. They sure tried to make it sound like they did though.
3 / 5 (4) Aug 10, 2013
It was a test well. The article says they're planning on doing a lot more than that. Silly.

At any rate, it doesn't look like a significant amount of radioactive materials are getting into the sea any more, because if it was happening, the U.S. Navy or NASA would know about it and our own military or media would already be telling us.

Additionally, ground water might be filtered by bacteria, or carbon compounds, or the soil itself, so that the leaking water is actually clean when it reaches the ocean, and the radioactive materials are being sequestered deep under ground, where they are safe.

It actually makes more sense to just let it leak off naturally, because if you pump it back to the surface, there's always a chance of it getting in the fresh water supply, or crops or shrubs via an accidental spill.

The ocean is HUGE, so even if it's getting in there, you're talking about an enormous volume of water to dilute this material to being virtually indistinguishable from background.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2013
That's one of the biggest loads of shill crap I have the disfortune to read, lurker2358.

There is a melted-through, uncontained, amorphous, too-powerful-to-be-locationally-sensed-with-our-current-technology plume of ultra-radioactive, man-made toxic waste sitting below these plants, and groundwater is running through it, because that's the way the planet works.... upper elevations receive the natural piezometric surface of the plant's water, which just happens to be sea level. And because the loading takes place at higher elevations, and no this planet water obeys the laws of gravity, a lateral gradient into the ocean is created.

On top of that, we are contributing to it with the million gallons day poured over the dispersed corium to keep it cool.

The fact that they haven't been pumping this entire time is a travesty. They also need a solid, low porosity wall downgradient of the pumping wells.
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 31, 2013
The ground as a filter argument is also a pathetic one, it means the ground becomes a source once the actual source is gone, and the ground will be limited filter and you are kicking the can as far down the road as possible instead of assuming responsibility and doing the right thing... Namely, eliminating the source to the best of your ability.

The ocean is big. It is not HUGE... certainly not relative to the bullshit we pump out on this planet on a daily basis. Do you know how far light penetrates the surface of the ocean? About 650 feet.

There is no way to let it 'leak of naturally.' THIS DOESN'T OCCUR IN NATURE. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS NATURALLY!

We created it ;we need to do something about it; it is a big deal.

Have a shill day,
1 / 5 (3) Sep 01, 2013
And now it's all clean. Seriously,. It is. Yup. No more contamination. Clean as a whistle. It's all gone. Yey!

Or not.

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