Fukushima Update # 84: April 9, 2013
by Nelle Maxey
The international press is finally catching on to the implications of the latest “water leaks” at Fukushima.
When the story hit the press on Saturday morning, the reports said a “tank” was leaking. Seemingly another ho-hum what’s new story regarding the bolted together decontaminated water storage tanks with deteriorating rubber gaskets. But the stories mentioned plastic sheets and the water leaking into the ground. I investigated to figure out what was really being described and discovered through the myriad of bad translations that the leaks are emanating not from tanks, but from a series of below ground, plastic lined storage pits, which are being used to “temporarily” store contaminated cooling water from the reactors until the new decontamination system comes on line (another story in itself).
The original use for the pits was to solve the problem of groundwater infiltration into the the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings which which continues to pour radioactive contaminated water into the ocean at the plant site. Here are some pictures from TEPCO documents of the plan and the construction of these tanks. This first picture is from a document dated March 19, 2013:
The green crosshatched area in the lower middle area is the location of the seven pits constructed to hold the groundwater. The reactor buildings are at the top of the picture. The pumps to move the groundwater from the drilled wells are the red dots in middle of the picture. Some of the aboveground storage tanks can be seen just above legend box. The yellow dots show the piping system to the underground storage pits. As you can see this is a very complicated and expensive system intended to solve the groundwater infiltration problem.
Are you beginning to get a sense of the magnitude of the plan and the one pitfall (pun intended) in it?
Here is a picture of green crosshatched area in picture 1 above where the storage pits are located:
The seven storage pits are numbered i through vii in this diagram. Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are on the left. These are ones which are leaking.
A number of years ago I investigated the use of plastic-lined pits in relation to the expansion of the paper mill’s toxic waste dump in Powell River (in a residential neighbourhood on a bluff above both Powell Lake the source of our drinking water and the river which poured into the ocean at the mill site). These pits are a standard industry solution to containment of contaminated water at mine and fracking sites, landfills the world over, and any industrial or resource extraction process which produces water contaminated with toxins. What I discovered was that the HDPF liners have a given lifetime (they deteriorate over time depending on the concentration and volume of toxins they are exposed to)’ and more worrying they are often punctured when they are laid into the pits during construction.
Here are some pictures of the construction of pit #2 at Fukushima:
So, the first time the new storage pits are put into use, it is discovered they are leaking. Today TEPCO has cancelled the transfer of water from leaking #2 pit to leaking #1 and #3 pits.
Here is a story today from Asahi news service in Japan: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201304080089
Defect could affect all radioactive water storage tanks at Fukushima plant
NHK government TV in Japan reports the storage pools (pits) are unusable in the video here: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20130409_28.html
Note they are still referring too the underground storage pits as “tanks” in the text. But in the video they call them pools.
Here is yesterday’s press handout from TEPCO: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130408_02-e.pdf
3 pages. The first page establishes a new process. The second page has information on the water leaks. The third page outlines all the problems they are dealing with now.
You can check in at Ex-SKF to watch the story unfold:
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