Impact of Fukushima groundwater bypass eludes Tepco

JIJI

Tokyo Electric Power Co. can’t confirm whether the groundwater bypass operation at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is working, Tepco officials said.

The operation is intended to reduce the tons of radiation-tainted water being generated by the plant each day. The melted reactor fuel at the plant, which was heavily damaged by three core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, must be perpetually cooled by water that then leaks into the basements and taints incoming groundwater from the hills behind the plant.

In the operation, which started about a month ago, the company pumps groundwater from wells dug near reactors 1 to 4 to intercept it before it can flow into the flooded basements and mix with highly contaminated cooling water. After being temporarily stored in tanks, the pumped-up water is released into the sea after radiation checks.

Tepco began pumping up groundwater in early April and releasing it in late May. More than 8,600 tons of groundwater have been released into the Pacific so far.

The problem is, the water levels in the observation wells near the reactor buildings haven’t fallen that much, officials said. The water levels tend to rise after it rains, they said.

“We will wait patiently until the effects of the bypassing operation become evident,” Naohiro Masuda, head of the reactor decommissioning division at Fukushima No. 1 told a news conference Friday.