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Japanese Institute Seeks International Input on Fukushima Water Cleanup

Oct. 17, 2013—Japan’s recently established International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) has issued requests for information on technologies that could assist in the cleanup of the large amount of contaminated water that is accumulating at the Fukushima Daiichi site.

“We would like to collect a lot of information and experiences on contaminated water from [international experts and organizations],” IRID Director Toshihiko Fukuda said this week at a meeting co-hosted by the Nuclear Energy Institute, U.S. Nuclear Infrastructure Council and the Howard Baker Forum. “We want to be a platform for integrating knowledge from all around the world.”

The requests for information represent the first Japanese efforts to engage and gather information from international experts on improving water management at Fukushima Daiichi. IRID said the information it gathers will assist the Japanese government in crafting a strategic plan to address contaminated water at the site.

IRID’s request for information seeks to address six major water management issues at the site:

  • The accumulation of contaminated water.
  • The treatment of contaminated water.
  • Removal of radioactive material from harbor seawater. (Radiation levels in the bay water at Fukushima Daiichi are within Japanese federal limits.)
  • Management of contaminated water inside the buildings on site.
  • Management measures to block groundwater from flowing into the site.
  • Understanding the flow of groundwater.

Dealing with contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi has complicated decommissioning efforts at the site. Among the issues is the mixing of groundwater with the contaminated water in the building basements. That water must be decontaminated before it is recycled and used for cooling the damaged reactors. For more details and regular updates on water management at the site, see Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s news website and Nuclear Energy Overview’s Japan Nuclear Update.

Fukuda said TEPCO and the Japanese government are considering a variety of countermeasures to stop the flow of groundwater (presently at a rate of 400 tons per day) and minimize the amount of contaminated water being generated. Chief among these are:

  • Creating an “impermeable” wall to stop groundwater from flowing down the mountainside into the site.
  • Creating another wall in the harbor to prevent contaminated seawater from escaping into the ocean.  
  • Pumping out contaminated groundwater that has accumulated in “trenches” near buildings and into storage tanks.
  • Pumping groundwater out of the mountainside above the site to stop it from reaching the site in the first place.  

Fukuda presented an overview of the schedule for decommissioning the site. He said that by the end of 2013 the removal of used fuel from the fuel storage pools would begin, with 2020 or 2022 being the goal for removing all “fuel debris” from the site. Full decommissioning will take 30 to 40 years.  

Responses to the requests for information are due Oct. 23 and should include an overview of technologies to be considered and contact information. Details on how to submit responses can be found at the IRID website. The information submitted will be transmitted to the Japanese government’s committee on contaminated water processing in November, after an initial evaluation by IRID.

Fukuda said that the request for information and a subsequent request for proposals could lead to commercial opportunities but stressed that submitting information would not guarantee a future contract.

Detailed slides from the IRID presentation are available.

IRID was established in August to gather international research and expertise on decommissioning nuclear energy facilities, particularly the Fukushima Daiichi site. Its founding members include Japanese government agencies, nuclear energy suppliers and electric utilities.