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Fixing Fukushima's Water Problem

samzenpus posted 1 year,20 days | from the please-don't-drink dept.

Earth 111

Lasrick writes "This is an excellent analysis of exactly what the problems are at Fukushima, and what risks are posed to the public. From the article: 'The operator of Fukushima Daiichi, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), has worked hard and has indeed contained most of the significant contamination carried by water used to cool the plant’s damaged reactor cores. Still, a series of events—including significant leakage from tanks built to hold radioactive water—has eroded public confidence. To address the water challenges, an improved water management plan should be created to deal with all levels of contamination, from slightly contaminated groundwater to highly radioactive cooling water flowing out of the damaged cores. This plan needs to build on the many good Tepco efforts of the past two years, but it should also incorporate new technologies that improve water cleanup performance and increase processing capacities. Importantly, this plan needs to include a new level of transparency for and outreach to the Japanese public, so citizens can understand and have confidence in the ultimate solution to the Fukushima water problem, which will almost certainly require the release of water—treated so it conforms to Japanese and international radioactivity standards—into the sea.'"

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Water Problems? (-1)

Big Hairy Ian (1155547) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798263)

You could try amputating its prostate :)

It's Japan, so you *know* they're gonna use robots (1, Redundant)

TWiTfan (2887093) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798275)

Just get on with it guys, you know you want to.

Treatment (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798305)

The only effective way to treat radioactive water is to store it until the radioactivity goes down. Anyone know if the international standard involves mixing it with a lot of non-radioactive water until the radioactivity per volume-unit is low enough? And then releasing it into the sea...

Re:Treatment (3, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798375)

I believe they mean water with radioactive material dissolved in it. So you could remove the radioactive material by precipitating it out or RO membranes or something.

Heavy Water? (-1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798443)

Re:Heavy Water? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798567)

Do you believe they meant heavy water?
Do you think I don't know what that is?
What are you attempting to communicate with your post?

Re:Heavy Water? (5, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798593)

That's nice. It's also irrelevant. The Fukushima reactor did not use heavy water. The problem here is coolant/moderator ordinary light water that is heavily contaminated with dissolved radioactive materials.

Re:Treatment (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799557)

Even after filtering out dissolved radioactive material you'll have a little left in the form of tritium, but it's not a huge deal as long as it isn't too concentrated. It has a relatively short half-life (~12 years) and will soon after not be an issue. There probably isn't much tritium in there in the first place anyway.

Re:Treatment (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802555)

RO treatment has the risk of concentrating very radioactive water
into astoundingly radioactive filter cartridges. These cartridges
could then not be handled.

One remedy I have not seen is transport by diluting the
very radioactive water to a point that it is largely self shielding
and then transport those tanks to a place where arrays of
cartridges have been installed in large banks inside a "solid
rock" bunker. Then filter the water, clamp seal and back fill the array
of cartridges with sand or another mass shielding for long term
storage. At some future date the sand could be hoovered
and the carts recollected for longer isotope sequestering.

The problem is this is a one time (hopefully) solution and
would be hard as heck to develop and test. The volcanic
and seismic activity of Japan make this a more challenging
issue than it might be in Nevada, USA or Mongolia high desert
in China. i.e no solution in Japan would be as good as Yucca
Mtn which is not good enough. Yet Yucca Mtn. is better than many moon
pool on site storage solutions.

Clearly the world needs better but too many demand the unobtanium
best. We do not need best -- but we do need better. This: []
tells me the world will not "end" if the solution is not perfect.

Re:Treatment (2)

nojayuk (567177) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802803)

They are already using zeolite cartridges to filter radioactive cesium out of contaminated water at Fukushima. One system is called "SARRY", there are others from various manufacturers including Areva. Handling the used cartridges is done by a remote crane system, not very complex engineering. The zeolite is jacketed in a steel container which blocks nearly all of the radiation from the cesium they collect, a few grammes at most per cylinder.

Japan has a better solution to dealing with nuclear waste than Yucca Mountain or indeed the defence-waste WIPP in New Mexico. It has built and is operating a spent fuel recycling plant at Rokkaisho capable of dealing with about 800 tonnes of spent fuel a year and reducing the amount of waste to 1% or so of the original material.

Fuel rods are only kept in pools (not moon pools, they are something different) for a few years until the heat produced by radioactive decay of fission isotopes has fallen to the point where the fuel rods can be either recycled as France, Japan, Russia and the UK do, stored in dry casks (the current US solution to cope with the lack of a burial store option) or prepared for deep geological disposal as in other countries like Finland.

Re:Treatment (2)

petermgreen (876956) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798693)

If the water molecules themselves were radioactive then you would be right, however AIUI the majority of radioactivity in the wastewater from a contaminanted nuclear site like chernobyl or fukushima or even sellafield comes from disolved contaminents not from the water itself and those contaminants can be seperated from water.

you still have to store the crap you take out of the water and probablly come contaminated membranes but that is likely much easier than storing massive ammounts of water.

Re:Treatment (2)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800317)

The water itself is not radioactive, it's the stuff dissolved in the water that's the problem. Remove the solute and you have harmless non-radioactive water.

Re:Treatment (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801775)

1) if they're going to release it into the sea anyway, then they could just release the highly-radioactive water and let is dilute into the ocean

2) why don't they just let the tanks evaporate over time? surely the heavy metals would stay in the remaining liquid portion, and the volume of water would steadily decrease. Soon you have a manageable amount of super radioactive water. Thoughts?

Re:Treatment (1)

qval (844544) | 1 year,20 days | (#44804059)

I assume they are concentrating the contamination in order to have a smaller volume to store for 100+ years. Can anyone comment on: "In fact, I am writing this article while sitting on an airplane, and I am receiving more ionizing radiation from cosmic rays at this higher altitude than I would receive from drinking effluent water from the Advanced Liquid Waste Processing System. " Does this mean the 99.999% clean water from the treatment process would do no lasting damage over the rest of his life if he drank it? I feel like comparing external radiation to internal (and potentially more concentrated by bodily functions) is nice and calming, but over what time scales is the author's statement valid? Drink nothing but the permeate for the rest of your life and be no worse off than one intercontinental flight?

"slightly contaminated groundwater" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798313)

This summary is hot garbage or a Tepco advertisement/PR damage control measure. They are beyond incompetent.

Re:"slightly contaminated groundwater" (1)

Shimbo (100005) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798543)

Sigh, read it again and try to comprehend before posting.

Re:"slightly contaminated groundwater" (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799899)

You offer zero insight, sighing being a sign of a tired troll I suggest you sleep in a fire of your own making.

Re:"slightly contaminated groundwater" (1)

kaatochacha (651922) | 1 year,19 days | (#44810807)

Says the AC.

Re:"slightly contaminated groundwater" (1)

PNutts (199112) | 1 year,20 days | (#44804333)

This summary is hot garbage or a Tepco advertisement/PR damage control measure. They are beyond incompetent.

I was going to go with bat-$hit crazy but then I saw he was part of the industry and his dismissive attitude is part of the problem. Japan should spend the $6 billion Olympic bid on cleanup. Too bad they didn't go $10.5 trillion in debt by modernizing their nuclear infrastructure.

completely eroded public confidence (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798379)

that's from TFA. complete is 100%. fini.

Hmm (4, Insightful)

lightknight (213164) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798441)

Well, going with theoretical solutions (for 200 Alex), I'd whip up a pneumatic robot (all fluidic pressure, no electronics), and strap on a chemical laser + fiber optic lines + lens system. That should ensure that stray radiation will not damage any electronics, as it won't have any, though it will be a one way trip for the bot (still going to be highly radioactive), and watching the cables will be an issue (better pay the extra money to make sure they're braided). Then I'd send it into the reactor core, to cut up / out the still active reactor rods, and bring them to a designated midway point piece by piece.

No human is going to survive in that core, even if they'd volunteer for the mission...nor would any electronic-based machine. The first will be cooked from the inside out, the second will get so many errors as it gets closer to the core from radiation hitting its processors that it will do more damage than good.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799027)

>> I'd whip up a pneumatic robot (all fluidic pressure, no electronics)

You have your phases mixed up.
pneumatic = gas
hydraulic = fluid

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799413)

As counter-intuitive as this may sound, gases are indeed fluids (for a given value of fluid).

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799609)

You know, you might be onto something. I've long suspected my poop is plasma ( for a give value of poop)

On another note "Fukushima cherries are safe to eat."

Re:Hmm (1)

dotancohen (1015143) | 1 year,19 days | (#44805871)

As counter-intuitive as this may sound, gases are indeed fluids (for a given value of fluid).

That is not counter-intuitive. It does, however, depend on understanding the difference between a fluid and a liquid.

Re:Hmm (2)

Necronomicode (859935) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799569)

Erm, I think fluids cover liquids and gases and apparently some plastic solids [] - who knew?

pneumatic [] = gas
hydraulic [] = liquid
would be more accurate.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44800797)

by the way, IIRC, glass is also a fluid, but a extremely slow one, betting more fluid when the temperature goes up (ie: melt)

Re: Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44805459)

No it isn't. Below the glass transition temperature (funny it should be called that), glass does not flow at all. It's an amorphous solid rather than a crystalline one, but it's still solid. Above the transition temperature, it becomes liquid, but unlike most liquids it tends to become more fluid at higher temperatures.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44802103)

Sand hydraulics have existed since the days of the ancient Egyptians.

Re:Hmm (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799871)

A few issues. Firstly, cutting anything produces dust, and in this case the dust is highly radioactive. Controlling it is non-trivial and one of the reasons why they are extremely cautious operating in that area. If something collapsed while cutting in that area it could be disastrous.

Secondly it isn't clear if using a laser would be safe in the cores. There is likely some hydrogen and certainly a lot of flammable material around. Without electronics it would be hard to detect or measure too.

Finally even once the core is dissected what would you do with it? The current plan is to wait for it to become a little safer to 20 or 30 years times before even starting to look at moving it to another area for storage. The storage pools on-site are already in pretty bad shape and leaking, so you would have to take that extremely dangerous material somewhere else. Of course, no-where else wants it and Japan currently does not have any way of dealing with it.

Re:Hmm (1)

lightknight (213164) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801941)

The cutting is occurring under water; I'm sure that the Japanese, depending on their level of desperation, can build a test scenario to replicate the conditions in the reactor, and make adjustments before sending anything in.

Again, the core itself is under might need to move some debris to get around things, at which point multiple robots, or perhaps, multiple robots with winches / more powerful / disposable tools might be useful. If it requires two of them to remove a girder to get to the sunken core, then two of them they will need. I favor the laser because it's bound to be useful for cutting the melted rods into chunks you can safely remove...mechanical attempts would be iffy, at best. And it might be possible to keep the actual laser generation apparatus outside the reactor, while feeding the cutting beam through the fiber optic cables. This would allow complete control of the laser + shutdown of the laser in an emergency + keep it out of any danger / radiation. Plus chemical lasers tend to be stronger than other kinds...or that was the impression I was left with last time I checked...things may have changed.

And yes, you are right about using the laser itself on the cores. Some double-checking would be needed to ensure that it would not 'assist' any additional neutron release, but I'm sure the idea itself is still a sound one.

As the core is dissected, I'd direct the robots to place each piece in a lead-lined storage pod; this needs to be done as each piece is cut off, so as to not create further metldowns; each piece must be placed in its own self-contained pod. After this is done, the immediate worry about needing to constantly pump in coolant to keep the core from getting worse will be alleviated...and the core itself will be contained, and presumably taken somewhere to be recycled or stored or buried. Continuing to pump water into the reactor, when it already contains seawater (WTF), which is a serious no-no for typical nuclear chemistry, is just a recipe for disaster. Your choices are many, but the ones here are 1.) keep pumping in water and watch it keep poisoning things (which does seem to be the media's current idea whether that is true), or 2.) dismantle the core so that radiation will drop. There is, of course, as you highlighted, the possibly of dust creation...but lasers tend to be pretty good here; your choices are 200 years of highly radioactive water flowing out of the reactor (need to verify this, is it actually highly radioactive and flowing? and 200 years worth?) or what will probably be a temporary spike of whatever dust is created by the lasers used (better than other cutting tools, I imagine), followed by an immediate drop off as the core is sealed. And the dust created will be somewhat granular, so perhaps some careful planning there can limit its spread as well (I suppose if you want to get extra crazy, you would apply an airlock or something to the area directly above wherever you find the melted core...and just filter for particles larger than 0.3 microns or something and smaller than the robot. You could apply gel to the cut pieces of the cores itself, to prevent any dust from moving, thought that would happen afterwards.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44802499)

The problem at Fukushima, which makes it different to the TMI cleanup, is that the reactor pressure vessels cannot be flooded. When the reactors melted down, some fuel melted through the bottom of the RPVs to end up in the dry well, and some remained. This led to holes in the RPV which means cannot be filled with water. (The dry well/pressure containment vessel cannot take the weight of water required to fill up above the fuel height in the RPVs, even if the wet wells were not leaking). I think this creates more a problem with using water for radiation protection than it would for removing the fuel.

Unit 2 has definitely a hole in the wet-well, and Units 1 and 3 also appear to be leaking.

At the moment, all the cooling water ends up in the reactor basements, and is highly contaminated. It is pumped out from the turbine building trenches.

I think an abrasive water jet would be sufficient to cut the mixed corium/concrete, and possibly the remaining fuel in the RPV. While dust/small debris could be a problem, the core sprays are working, so the debris would mix with water which could be pumped and treated from the wet well. They are injecting nitrogen to keep the hydrogen under control.

Re:Hmm (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802859)


As the core is dissected, I'd direct the robots to place each piece in a lead-lined storage pod; this needs to be done as each piece is cut off, so as to not create further metldowns;


Lead lined???

Enough lead to act as a shield would not have the needed thermal profile.

You are working with meltdown temperatures that compromise
Zircaloy or steel used in modern construction. So not lead which
has a low melting point.

Yes cut off bits of reactor rods (and stuff) could be dropped into stainless
tubes, crimped tight, perhaps welded and then slipped
into a multi layered shielded transport container to manage the
thermal load as well as protect from external damage and internal

One pending solution for undamaged rods of which there may be
many is coffins. Long enough for the full length of the rod. Sealed
for 20+years with a thermal management profile that lets them be
lined up in parking lot sized areas "high and dry" away from the
ocean and with the potential of transport "as is" to secure storage.

There is a global issue with the storage of undamaged rods.
Pools permit the removal of heat and make monitoring for leaks
easy but once the pool's coolant water is lost all pooh happens.
A pool is small and physically easy to secure other thermal dissipation
methods not so compact. The number of rods in a reactor is large...
There are about 179-264 fuel rods per fuel bundle and about 121 to 193 fuel
bundles are loaded into a reactor core -- someone else do the math.

These rods are hot in two ways. Like ordering "hot sauce" in
English at a Mexican restaurant can prove ambiguous., hot
is ambiguous.

The news media is blundering all over their adjectives here...
One the only care to gain eyeballs for their sponsors. They
have no incentive to get it right.

Re:Hmm (1)

lightknight (213164) | 1 year,19 days | (#44813453)

"Enough lead to act as a shield would not have the needed thermal profile."

My solution would need to be adapted accordingly. The goal with the lead pods was not, in of themselves, to provide a permanent means of storage, but to allow the robot, while working within the reactor, to safely contain pieces of the fuel rods...because cutting fuel rods, with a laser, into thousands of pieces, then attempting to pick up those pieces later on would, in all likelihood, end the cut fuel rods / pieces, presumably laying on top of each other at they are cut off, would have a much higher surface area, which, if there are any neutron reflecting / slowing materials in the area (like water), might end badly. You could use any number of materials that qualify as radiation stopping here...and there are many to choose from. Lead is simply a well-known, common one.

As for storing fuel rods, in a pool, the water itself is fine: Granted these are 'spent' fuel rods, not active fuel rods in a reactor...they're just being stored, so they're safe enough for people, engineers, in some instances, to walk around unshielded in some cases...well, unshielded at the bottom of a pool.

Perhaps a better solution, long term, would be simply to recycle the rods. I know, I know, it sounds insane. But your options are seal them up...and watch as someone goes looking for them eventually...and they will...or use them up...I know of no immediate way to render radioactive substances non-radioactive using current technology. Current methods induce more radiation into surroundings, etc. Perhaps if a new method for slicing or restoring subatomic particles could be created, this would not be an issue...

where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798449)

where are those guys who said "don't worry" and "its all media hype" back when it happened ?

Re:where? (0)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800409)

Still here. Note that in spite of nearly incredible incompetence from all concerned, still nobody dead.

Now if they would kindly bring in some competent management they can have it all over and done with.

Re:where? (2)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800893)

Still here. Note that in spite of nearly incredible incompetence from all concerned, still nobody dead.

Yet. It will be some time before the increased mortality from this incident is known.

Re:where? (0)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800947)

If there is any.

Re:where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44804987)

If there is any.

“A breakdown of data, based on age, gender and proximity to the nuclear plant, does show a higher cancer risk for those located in the most contaminated parts. Outside these parts - even in locations inside Fukushima Prefecture - no observable increases in cancer incidence are expected."
-- Dr Maria Neira, WHO Director for Public Health and Environment

Re:where? (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805119)

And even that is necessarily based on the unproven theory that there is no threshold for risk.

Many have died (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802155)

The evacuation has killed quite a few people. Probably saved more than it killed, but without the accident there would not have been an evacuation under those tough post earthquake conditions. Nuclear power kills, one way or another, it kills.

Re:Many have died (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802337)

And the tsunami (not earthquake) had nothing whatsoever to do with the evacuation?

Re:Many have died (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#44804171)

It complicated the evacuation from the radiologically contaminated areas, yes. Nuclear does very poorly during natural disasters. During hurricanes, for instance, after sucking all the resiliency local generation provides out of the system, they shut down for weeks just when a little emergency power would be most welcome. They can't handle floods either.

Re:Many have died (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44804609)

The tsunami happened first. In fact, it caused the nuclear problem. (not to mention killing 10,000 people).

Solar and wind power don't fare terribly well either when hit by hurricane winds or swamped in a tsunami.

I agree completely that the plant was mis-managed before and after the tsunami. The sea wall was too low and they didn't have anything like an adequate emergency plan. But it hasn't killed anyone.

Re:Many have died (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,20 days | (#44805279)

The evacuation saved lives in net because it protected people from deadly radiation, but it took lives too, and that is down to the accident.

People sometimes wonder about civil defense decisions not to evacuate in the face of a hurricane. Usually it comes down to anticipated deaths as a result of the evacuation itself. Hospitals and nursing home patients, elderly people who can't drive all can easily fall victim to the vicissitudes of an evacuation. So, shelter-in-place orders go out and instead first responders die in rescue attempts. With a nuclear accident, you know there will be nothing left to return to, so the evacuation order tends not to be so hesitant.

Re:Many have died (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,19 days | (#44806043)

Of course many of the evacuees fled in terror before the accident because a giant wall of water was going to crush their house and carry it out to sea. Unfortunately 18,500 didn't run soon enough.

Later, there were evacuations of people further inland, but not in a panic. The death rate at that time was comparable to that of people staying home in a safe area.Remember, any place that size in any populated area will normally see quite a number of deaths on any given day from disease, accidents, and old age.

There are stress related problems showing up now, which must be addressed. One of the better ways would be to bring in competent people to secure the reactors so they can allow more people to return home.

Re:Many have died (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,19 days | (#44806331)

You seem to have a fanciful view on this that is quite far detached from what has actually happened. []

Re:Many have died (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,19 days | (#44809275)

You seem to have this odd vision that the tsunami was a harmless bit of water and then the nuclear plant spewed boiling lava over people. You seem truly desperate to count every stubbed toe in Japan as an epic tragedy that was somehow caused by the nuclear plant.

Look at that data and kindly subtract out tsunami evacuees and deduct the stress caused by loss of family to the tsunami. Considering that the starting number is in the low hundreds, you'll be somewhere in the double digits by the time you're done.

Yes, double digits and hard to know exactly what killed them (why weren't they in better shelters?). After 18,000 provably died in the tsunami.

Re:Many have died (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | 1 year,18 days | (#44817661)

Read the link I provided. That was controlled in the study.

Nuclear accidents kill just like natural disasters. However, they are entirely preventable.

Re:where? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44804995)

where are those guys who said "don't worry" and "its all media hype" back when it happened ?


cement filled barrels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798601)

This may be a naive question, but why couldn't they mix cement with the contaminated water, and pout it into stainless barrels? It may not be a perfect solution, but it should suffice for effectively immobilizing the shorter-lived isotopes (especially the difficult to remove tritium).

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798739)

Would work, if you could find a pool about 1 sq. mile in size to store it...for the next 1,000,000 years...

Re:cement filled barrels? (2)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800441)

The water will be safe LONG before that. The worst of the stuff in the water has a 30 year half life.

However, simple distillation (noting that simple is a relative term when dealing with radiation at that level) would be a better choice since that would greatly reduce the volume of waste to store.

Re:cement filled barrels? (3, Interesting)

nitehawk214 (222219) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800755)

The water will be safe LONG before that. The worst of the stuff in the water has a 30 year half life.

However, simple distillation (noting that simple is a relative term when dealing with radiation at that level) would be a better choice since that would greatly reduce the volume of waste to store.

So, now you want to cook water with radioactive materials in it? Considering TEPCO's safety record with radioactive steam, I know exactly what would happen here. Perhaps there are non-heating ways to distill the water, though.

However some of that radioactive material is tritium, which is nearly impossible to separate from regular water. (Yes, gas vapor centrifuges can probably do it, but not for the amount of water they have to deal with.) Tritium has a half-life of 12ish years, so letting it sit around for a while is still the best way to go.

The real issue is that TEPCO cannot even sit on radioactive material without messing it up, much less run a reactor or cleaning system with moving parts.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801043)

Actually, at this point all I want TEPCO to do is pay for it. I'd rather leave the actual handling to someone more competent.

It would still be a good idea to separate it so the more dangerous waste is in stable solid form, then we can worry about getting rid of the tritium or just using it appropriately (it is quite useful for emergency lighting).

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

nitehawk214 (222219) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801289)

Actually, at this point all I want TEPCO to do is pay for it. I'd rather leave the actual handling to someone more competent.

I don't trust Japan's NRA (Nuclear Regulatory Authority) not to mess that up. The agency was formed in response to Fukushima because the old NSC was so full of revolving-door cronyism that it had to be reformed after allowing the disaster. I have no faith that this new agency is simply a new name on the same corruption.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

niftymitch (1625721) | 1 year,20 days | (#44803003)

The water will be safe LONG before that. The worst of the stuff in the water has a 30 year half life.

However, simple distillation (noting that simple is a relative term when dealing with radiation at that level) would be a better choice since that would greatly reduce the volume of waste to store.

So, now you want to cook water with radioactive materials in it?


The real issue is that TEPCO cannot even sit on radioactive material without messing it up, much less run a reactor or cleaning system with moving parts.

Caution this stuff is self heating. You could let
it boil water and then vent water vapor but the more you
concentrate the waste the more trouble you have
with the thermal load which then compromises storage

It is increasing obvious that the material needs to be sealed tight
and a thermal solution put in place.

Each locality in the site needs attention. Storage pools
are not thermally stable. Damaged reactor cores need
to be unloaded as much as possible. It is impossible to
unload melted/ slagged rods. When the cladding began
reacting and releasing hydrogen the ability to safely remove rods
went in the crapper.

Then there is contamination... anything and everything is
likely unsafe for humans. Robot technology can barely
survey the damage.... The contamination is so wide spread
that you cannot bring a container near material that need to
be removed without contaminating the outside of the container.

Bring in the Russian dolls.

One big stinking pile of trouble...

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

Steve_Ussler (2941703) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801275)

that is still a loooong time.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

sjames (1099) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801457)

It's not a very long time for tritium. It's even shorter if they harvest the valuable tritium for industrial use.

Re:cement filled barrels? (3, Interesting)

Smidge204 (605297) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798747)

Cement might not be the best option, but I agree that's something along the right lines.

I was actually thinking gelatin, or some other coagulant, which would entrap the contaminants preventing further leakage without preventing future recovery and processing (you can re-melt gelatin). If the goal is to halt the leaking, something along those lines seems like a potential solution.

Re:cement filled barrels? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798875)

Jell-O brand would like to warn the gelatin loving populace out there that "Gell-O" is not part of the Jell-O brand family, and especially not to trust the "Happy Midday Glow Lime" flavor, as it is actually highly radioactive.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

Dogtanian (588974) | 1 year,20 days | (#44802567)

Pfft... that's old hat in the UK. As you can see from this advert [] , Sellafield were clearly disposing of their unwanted nuclear waste as part of a children's breakfast cereal back in the 70s.

FWIW, that advert is guaranteed to confirm Yanks' stereotype of "English" children as all having upperclass "British" accents and enduring lousy weather. All that's missing is rotten teeth. :-)

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

nojayuk (567177) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799095)

You mean something like zeolite, the material the engineers at Fukushima have been using for about two years or so to extract radioactive cesium and some other problematic isotopes from contaminated water before it is recycled throguh the reactor cores to cool them? The first small-capacity cesium-absorption units were supplied by Areva in France (part of the international effort to contain radioactive pollution on the site that according to pundits here and elsewhere hasn't been happening up till now because the Japanese are too stubborn to accept outside help that they're actually accepting). The larger-capacity "SARRY" units were built in Japan and first went into operation at Fukushima Daiichi in mid-August 2011.

But that's TEPCO for you, keeping things like cesium absorbtion equipment a big secret. Apart from all the press releases, the videos and such about this sort of effort that get ignored because it indicates some competency in the engineering going on at Fukushima which doesn't fit the "We're doomed!" storyline that sells newspapers and web clicks.

Re:cement filled barrels? (2)

Smidge204 (605297) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799219)

No, zeolite is essentially filtering medium, similar to activated charcoal.

I'm talking about actually coagulating the contaminated water to prevent it from leaking out. Then you could scoop it out and re-liquefy it for processing.

Re:cement filled barrels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799701)

That's the value of filtering -- you trap the nasty stuff in the filter and then you've enormously reduced the volume of highly-radioactive stuff you have to dispose of. Zeolites do this by trapping the dissolved materials in their crystal structure. Adding a gel of some kind would solve the immediate issue of discouraging leaks but it would make the next water processing step more difficult for the same reason: it's harder to make it flow. Even if you could "re-liquify" it, you have limited your chemistry options by having it in there at all versus plain water. Now, if you could make a gel that would selectively bind with the radioactive material and retain it within the gel as you separated water from the mix, you might be on to something.

The whole point is, the water isn't intrinsically radioactive with the exception of any tritium, which is a minor problem because of its beta emission and short half-life, so if you can separate the dissolved stuff from the water, the water would be relatively safe to dispose of.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

nojayuk (567177) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799757)

How do you plan to pump this coagulated sludge? The most contaminated water on the Fukushima site is being recirculated through the reactor cores to cool them; some of this coolant did escape a leaky pipe in April last year, dumping significant quantities of radioactive material into the sea. The water in most of the tanks on the site is only slightly radioactive by comparison and the recent headline-grabbing leak from such a tank (the water had already been through one filtering system and was in store waiting to get further filtration treatment) hasn't caused much of a rise in radioactivity in the seawater measurements taken regularly close to the site. You can find current and historical seawater contamination measurements via the NRA website here [] . Short version; the contamination from radioactive cesium isotopes just offshore from the Fukushima Daiichi plant today is well below the natural level of radioactivity of regular uncontaminated seawater which contains large mounts of potassium-40.

Re:cement filled barrels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44803801)

Silica Gel - those little packets of beads they put in merchandise to stop them getting water damage. Pour a load into each tank, and the water will be absorbed. Not sure about the radioactive stuff though.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798877)

Tritium is not a major issues. It is a very short lived beta emitter.

Where are you going to find this much concrete? You are look at hoover dams worth of the stuff quite likely.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801895)

why not let the water evaporate? this would be the best solution I think.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,19 days | (#44807269)

Because there is so much of, and in that area will evaporation occur faster than rainfall? I never add water to my pool, it fills via rain faster than it evaporates.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,19 days | (#44807489)

then pump it through one of those simpson tower coolers. just tumbling about in spray form will help evaporate it. also it's heated by its own decay so I don't see the problem here. you must be east coast so for you its academic, but for us in CA it's a tangible concern that our ocean water will become unsafe. there's a lot of beach communities here.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,18 days | (#44820315)

I am east coast, but even if you dumped the all the fuel from that reactor in the ocean your beaches would not be unsafe. If you think otherwise I want to see some citations.

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

noh8rz10 (2716597) | 1 year,18 days | (#44820967)

I am east coast, but even if you dumped the all the fuel from that reactor in the ocean your beaches would not be unsafe.[1] If you think otherwise I want to see some citations.

[1] your ass

Re:cement filled barrels? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | 1 year,18 days | (#44821145)

No, I just lazily assumed even dilution.
Do you have a better method?

Re:cement filled barrels? (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798945)

They don't want to store the water, because there would be way to much of it. It is crazy how much water they are storing atm. From the article: 340,000 tons in 1000 temporary tanks. They want to (and they are doing it now) filter the water, store the radioactive contaminants that were dissolved/mixed in the water, and release the filtered water.

"Eroded ... public confidence" (2, Insightful)

fnj (64210) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798699)

Duh. Ya think, TEPCO shitheads?

It isn't precisely the phrasing I would use. Every shred of public confidence was lost on 2011-3-11 and the few days following, and nothing done since has restored a single iota of it.

Most of the Contaminated Water. (2, Interesting)

wisnoskij (1206448) | 1 year,20 days | (#44798753)

So they are protecting us from over 60% of the contaminated water. Well good job then, 60% is a passing grade, so I guess this means they are doing a good job.

Re:Most of the Contaminated Water. (1)

es330td (964170) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800735)

Well good job then, 60% is a passing grade, so I guess this means they are doing a good job.

If at first you don't succeed, redefine the standard for success!

Re:Most of the Contaminated Water. (1)

DigitAl56K (805623) | 1 year,20 days | (#44801177)

So they are protecting us from over 60% of the contaminated water.

Emphasis on "us". I think I recall reading that "Fukushima's Water Problem" is destined to become California's water problem in 2014.

No need to worry (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44798915)

There's no need to worry because radiation won't affect you if you are smiling. It can only affect you if you are worrying. Dr. Yamashita told me so:

How to restore public confidence in TEPCO? (5, Insightful)

Minwee (522556) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799311)

As I recall, the traditional way involved wearing a white robe and holding a knife in your hand while your trusted second stood behind you with his sword drawn, ready to finish the job.

The modern way seems to involve holding a press conference in which you say "Gosh, we don't know how that went wrong. It certainly wasn't our fault. I hope it doesn't happen again. Again." while your trusted second brings you a coffee.

I'm sure that one of those approaches will suffice to restore TEPCO's spotless public image.

Or not! (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44799343)

In fact they don't know where the core is!

It could be in the lower parts of the building, but most likely much of it has melted down far into the ground. How far, nobody knows. It may be in the water table. There is sporadic evidence of ongoing fission at the sites.

They neither have it under control, nor contained.

Re:Or not! (1)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44800125)

Japan Nuclear Expert: “We don’t even know at this point where the melted down core is” under Reactors No. 1, 2 or 3

How to fix Fukushima (1)

wbr1 (2538558) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799559)

Nuke it from orbit. Only way to be sure. In fact the same procedure could be used on tepco official and management to good effect.

Amazing (1)

djupedal (584558) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799779)

- pretending that this a public relations problem.

20/20 hindsight is often terribly embarrassing... (4, Insightful)

sugarmatic (232216) | 1 year,20 days | (#44799837)

...and Fukushima is a perfect example.

In the months following the incident, the press was hyping the accident to ethereal levels.

In the years following the incident, the US nuclear industry groups busily developed counter propaganda, using official measurements and downplaying risks ("1% greater chance of dying from cancer for 77 people") and the like. Carefully written op-ed and science pieces appeared all over the press from the Smart Serious People in the room, to soothe a worried public, that their superior assessment of the situation proved the concerns of pollution would become cautionary tales of hysteria.

The Japanese government deliberately withheld information until after the election, and now the pollution levels emanating form the plant render many the carefully written, I-told-you-it-was-hysteria explanations, riddled in Smug by the Serious Persons seem pretty silly, if not entertaining, to read.

If anything can be drawn from all this, it is, "It ain't over till it's over..."

Re:20/20 hindsight is often terribly embarrassing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44801911)

How the frack is this new? Some of us readily recognize the arrogant dogmas and reductionist attitudes that created these crises in the first place. In time, I believe more and more people will do so too, speak up and make real change. Not until everything gets MUCH MUCH MUCH WORSE though, that much is clear now.

Good luck finding research on accumulation of nuclear particles outside Fukushima harbor, along the cost, in the mountains, in certain riverbeds. It's all accumulating, both regionally and biologicaly, following growth functions. It'll continue for hundreds of our lifetimes..

Captcha: atheism

Re:20/20 hindsight is often terribly embarrassing. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44806107)

And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.

Re:20/20 hindsight is often terribly embarrassing. (1)

doom (14564) | 1 year,19 days | (#44805445)

The Japanese government deliberately withheld information until after the election, and now the pollution levels emanating form the plant render many the carefully written, I-told-you-it-was-hysteria explanations, riddled in Smug by the Serious Persons seem pretty silly, if not entertaining, to read.

And if it turns out that your present impression of how bad the problem is is wrong, will you be apologizing for having been so smug and superior right here?

(But wait... how would you ever know? If an expert publishes a result you don't like, you'll just assume it's wrong-- they've obviously been corrupted, eh?)

And do I get points for sitting on the fence about how bad Fukushima is until all the results are in? Unlike, for example, Democracy Now that couldn't wait to quote the first "Worse than Chernobyl!" quote they could find?

One thing I'll concede: I was (and still am) on record for saying how ever bad it is, it won't bring down the nuclear industry's average to below the level of certain other power sources few people seem to worry about...

Every time an airplane crashes, you don't have people going "You see, we need to ban air travel!".

Re:20/20 hindsight is often terribly embarrassing. (1)

MSG (12810) | 1 year,19 days | (#44816629)

1% greater chance of dying from cancer for 77 people

Even that's exaggerated. There are an estimated ~2000 people who face an elevated risk of thyroid cancer. Even with that elevated risk, there is never expected to be a statistically measurable increase in the actual development of thyroid cancer.

And thyroid cancer is treatable. It has a 97% survival rate. Those people are going to be screened annually. They're probably going to be just fine.

Fuckushima (1)

matthew_t_west (800388) | 1 year,20 days | (#44800799)

I thought I read, "Fucking Fukushima's Water Problem." Angsty submissions today!

Sushi & Wild Boar (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44802095)

"I hope to be able to introduce my dear grandchildren to the fantastic seafood from the Tohoku coast"

They're gonna love the wild boar from Kiev!

Solving the Tritium Problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44802351)

I am quite impressed that a few of the slashdotters have heard of Tritium and have correctly surmised that this will be an issue even after most of the other dissolved solids and ions have been filtered out. The good news is that TEPCO is currently testing a new technology from a US company that can effectively concentrate out the Tritium from the stored water with an effluent that is well below the legal release limits. The only issue is that it could be a bit expensive... Let's hope they make the proper choice...

    As for dumping into the ocean - The reason there are global laws against this is because if one country did this then everyone would and in the end we would have one seriously messed up ocean.
    As for dilution below legal limits in order to dump - There are also Total release limits so this doesn't work (will take like 100 years to dump)
    As for evaporation - You need MASSIVE pools to deal with the 200 ton/day of water not to mention that you still have release limits into the atmosphere

So how do I know this??? I'm running the test rig while typing this out! It is so nice to finally have something to contribute to slashdot!

It was almost enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44803517)

Obviously that article was written by a nuclear apologist. While I read it the phrase "The condom almost didn't break" kept coming into my head.

Heh (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,20 days | (#44804425)

the irony of all this is given enough time all water ALL water ends up back in the ocean.

Business opportunity! (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44806061)

Just package the radioactive water in barrels and sell it to the anti-sea-pirate organizations. They can use it to soak all the cash used to pay off the pirates in order to make it lethally radioactive. The stupid pirates will have no way of detecting the radioactivity and will handle the cash like always, ensuring that both themselves, their families and everybody else profiting from their activities gets an (un)healthy exposure and thus will die a hopefully very painful and prolonged death from radiation poisoning. That will be very satisfying and will hopefully both eliminate existing pirates and deter others from trying their hand at this currently way too lucrative business.

water is good. (0)

Anonymous Coward | 1 year,19 days | (#44806535)

i really don't want to "help" at all here.
give them ideas and "they" think you're a pro-nuke tech and sh1t.
i'm not.
this said, the whole problem seems not to be the water.
water is good. it's messy, but good. you can dissolve stuff and pump it around
and it shields and it cools.
so i think the water per-se isn't the problem.
the problem is the filtering.
one can use water to "flush" the core-crap out, of course, because there's no other
way to get to it.
water is thus like a flexible, liquid and shielded GLOVE to touch the decay-stuff.
the water is the solution methinks, unless of course it is not true that water cannot become
radioactive (not tritium, just plain water) and those pesky ghostly neutrinos do somehow inform the rest
of the universe that this particular "normal" water molecule was in fact irradiated and thus
not fit to be incorporated into living beings ...
*shrug* non-proliferation information management is good and also, in cases like this, bad.

An International Solution (1)

MrKaos (858439) | 1 year,19 days | (#44812357)

The possibility of negligence from nonfeasance should be the one thing to allow the Japanese Government to save face. I don't think Japan should feel any shame in receiving help by all governments who share the pacific.

The engineering effort of this boggles the mind and many sorts of expertise will need to be brought to bare to resolve it as quickly as possible AND produce a long term solution. This is well beyond TEPCO's ability and will require resources that transcend their capabilities after all their core business is to supply electricity.

It's happened now, so everyone who shares the consequences should share the responsibility so we can control it as quickly as possible.

What would be really great is if the Japanese Government took control of the situation now that TEPCO has contained the initial situation. That way we can move on quickly to engineering a proper solution. Hopefully they already are.

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