Tokyo Electric Power Co. said all three systems of an advanced water processing machine known as ALPS are now in a test operations for the first time simultaneously.
The advanced liquid processing system can remove all radioactive materials except for tritium from tainted water, so its smooth and full-scale operation is a key to considerably reducing the high levels of radiation in the water being stored at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The water treatment system has three individual processing systems, labeled A, B and C, and Tepco started the test operation of the B system Thursday. Each system can process about 250 tons daily.
Although all the three systems are in test operation now, the utility said the machine will basically be running the two systems simultaneously, while the remaining system stands by.
More than 300,000 tons of radioactive water are stored at Fukushima No. 1, and 400 tons of groundwater are entering the buildings housing the crippled reactors daily, much of it later flowing to the sea.
Tepco has been running other water cleanup systems, but they cannot remove as many radioactive materials as ALPS can, including strontium.
The utility had started running a test operation with the A system in March but had to stop it after finding corrosion holes in June. The test run was resumed with the C system in September, while the A system began again in late October.
Tepco spokesman Noriyuki Imaizumi said ALPS currently processes about 1,300 tons of radioactive water weekly.
He added that the utility is still not sure how long it will run the test operation and when real operations will begin.
During the test operation, Tepco will be checking whether ALPS can really clean up the radioactive materials below the legal limits and if the systems can withstand corrosion.
To speed up the filtering process, Tepco will add three more ALPS systems, and the government will pay to install another ALPS machine in about a year.
If all these new machines are installed and work smoothly, the utility will be able to process about 2,000 tons of water a day.
Tepco plans to clean up all of the tainted water through ALPS by the end of March 2015.
Because ALPS cannot remove tritium, Tepco hopes to discharge the processed water into the sea after diluting the tritium below the legal limit.