JAPAN | Coordination holds key to successful nuclear plant water treatment

Posted on June 16, 2011

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JAPAN | MAINICHI |  June 16, 2011

In this June 9, 2011 photo released Saturday, June 11, 2011 by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), equipment inside the cesium absorption tower, part of the newly-built radioactive water processing facilities at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, is shown. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

Japan is set to start operating a system to treat contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, a project whose success depends on coordination among the five companies involved in the huge project.

“We are moving towards full-fledged operations as scheduled. But the biggest worry we have about is joints of pipes (of companies taking part in the project),” Junichi Matsumoto of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said at a news conference on June 15 in reference to coordinated efforts among the companies involved in the project.

The contaminated water treatment system consists of four components — an oil separator developed by Toshiba, cesium-absorbing equipment developed by Kurion Inc. of the United States, a decontamination facility developed by France’s Areva SA, and desalination unit developed by Hitachi and others. When the whole system is operating, radiation levels near the system will run high. Therefore, it has to be operated by remote-control.

TEPCO plans to conduct a trial run of the entire system on June 16 or later. But it is not clear whether the major project involving the five companies will go smoothly.

TEPCO says it will be able to prevent contaminated water from flowing into the ocean at least until the end of this month if it uses the second basement floor of its central waste disposal facility to store the water. Although TEPCO has made various plans, including setting up a temporary tank by early July, the situation remains precarious.

In this June 9, 2011 image taken from a video and released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, workers are seen as they measure radiation dosage inside the Unit 3 reactor building of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

In this June 9, 2011 image taken from a video and released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Wednesday, June 15, 2011, workers are seen as they measure radiation dosage inside the Unit 3 reactor building of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northern Japan. (AP Photo/Tokyo Electric Power Co.)

About 520 cubic meters of water is injected into the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors each day, and water accumulates in the basements of the reactor buildings and in turbine buildings nearby. If torrential rains fall, the water could flow into the ocean through concrete holes called “pits” linking the turbine buildings and the basements.

The system is capable of treating about 1,200 cubic meters of contaminated water per day and reducing the amount of radioactive substances in the water to a level between one-thousandth and one ten-thousandth of the original amount. The cost of operating the system until the end of this year is 53.1 billion yen. There is expected to be a total of 250,000 cubic meters of contaminated water by the end of this year. Thus, it will cost 210 yen to treat one liter of contaminated water.

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