Radioactive water leak found at Takahama No. 4 reactor, posing restart delay

JIJI, AFP-JIJI, Staff Report

Kansai Electric Power Co. said Sunday it has put off preparatory work for restarting of the No. 4 reactor at its Takahama nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture after a radioactive water leak was discovered a day earlier — a move that may delay plans to reboot the unit later this month.

Kepco officials said the utility is continuing to probe the cause of the leak.

Kepco had planned on Sunday to test the No. 4 reactor and pipes carrying coolant water by raising the pressures and temperatures to near normal operational levels. This work was tentatively put off until Monday or possibly even later, the officials said.

A delay in determining the cause of the leak and how to repair it could affect the reactivation timetable.

On Saturday, the utility announced it had found a puddle of radioactive water inside an auxiliary building at the No. 4 reactor.

The prefectural government’s nuclear safety division said the leak did not affect the environment.

“Resumption procedures have been suspended in light of the incident because we are still investigating the cause,” a Kepco spokesman said.

According to the company, an alarm went off after the utility injected water into a pipe connected to the No. 4 reactor’s first cooling system at around 3:40 p.m. Saturday. Water was found dripping from two valves on a coolant water filter in the auxiliary building, and the radioactivity of the resulting 8-liter puddle was 14,000 becquerels.

Judging from other traces on the floor, roughly 34 liters were leaked overall, amounting to about 60,000 becquerels.

The No. 4 reactor is 30 years old and has idle for more than 4½ years since being taken offline in July 2011 for a scheduled checkup. That’s longer than the No. 3 reactor, which was reactivated in January, and reactor Nos. 1 and 2 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, which were rebooted last year.

All four reactors have cleared the stiffer safety requirements set up after the March 2011 triple core meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s poorly protected Fukushima No. 1 plant, which was wrecked in the nuclear disaster.

In December, the Fukui District Court overturned an injunction on restarting the two Takahama reactors that had been brought by residents who said their safety had not been proven, despite being greenlighted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

In Kagoshima, the two Sendai reactors were restarted in August and October 2015, ending a two-year hiatus.

Officials in the town of Takahama have been eager to see the reactors back online. Between 1974 and 2013, the town, with a population of around 11,000, received over ¥35 billion in nuclear-related subsidies.

Prior to 2011, about half its annual budget came from such subsidies, while the roughly annual safety inspections brought in thousands of Kepco and government officials.

  • Starviking

    60,000 Bequerels? Probably more danger in walking past a group of smokers.

    • KenjiAd

      You’re absolutely right. 60 KBq in 34 liter is nothing. I used to put 1000 times more into a 2-liter culture flask to radioactively label DNA.

      • Roy Warner

        Indeed, not to worry. I have this on the highest medical authority: As long as you were smiling, you’ll be fine. Such is the advanced state of knowledge about radiation.

      • KenjiAd

        If you or anyone is worried about even undetectable level of radiation risks, your chance of survival would be better achieved by avoiding BBQ which contains a small amount Benzo[a]pyrene, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing compound).

        Also note you should never go outside during daytime, thus inadvertently exposing yourself to UVB, a kind of ionizing radiation. Never, ever take an intercontinental flight which would expose to a high level of cosmic radiation, as much as 10 times more than if you stay on the sea level. Don’t climb Mt Fuji for the same reason.

      • Sam Gilman

        I am continually amazed by people who lived in Japan during 2011 who have such strong opinions about the dangers of radiation yet haven’t made the first effort to read any of the basic facts about radiation and health. When the newspapers were full of this or that many microsieverts per hour, or becquerels per kilo or square metre, were they not curious what these numbers actually meant?

      • KenjiAd

        I wonder where this irrational fear of radioactivity came from.

        What fascinates me is the fact that people who are so afraid of even a minute level of radioactive contamination in Fukushima seem to be perfectly OK with other environmental hazards that are demonstrably much more severe.

        These people are accepting the notion of “safe level” for various poisonous chemicals in drinking water and food, while refusing to grant any safe level to radiation.

        Wait, that’s not true. They are OK with dental X-rays, so they are accepting the notion of safe level for X-rays. Why do they give preferential treatment to X-rays and UV (tanning salon), but not to beta emissions? I mean, most beta emissions are energetically so wimpy that clothes are perfect shield.

        And I suspect many of these radiation-haters smoke cigarettes.

      • Sam Gilman

        I suppose I was irrationally afraid of radiation before March 2011. I thought about it in a rather binary way, like there was or wasn’t radiation. If there was radiation, it must therefore be somehow existentially dangerous. Each extra exposure you had, through radiotherapy or X-Ray, was a nail in your coffin. Maybe it was a necessary evil sometimes, but it did have this weird grip on my imagination.

        The idea that bananas or Brazil nuts were rather radioactive never crossed my mind. I was astonished to discover that Chernobyl had not killed anywhere near as many people as I had thought, and that effects had not been found outside a 30km radius. I suppose though it was the behaviour of leading figures in the anti-nuclear movement that broke the spell. They were clearly making things up, and it mattered in my real life that they were. George Monbiot’s public denunciation of Helen Caldicott solidified that, as it showed to me I wasn’t going crazy and that all these people given airtime by various media really were cranks.

        So I shook off my irrational fear rather quickly. The thing is, there are still otherwise rational people five years later who have not shed their irrational fear even though Armageddon has not come to pass.

      • Sam Gilman

        Roy, are you an academic?

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  • solodoctor

    So, is this ‘good news’ that this leak was found before this plant restarted? What about the other plants at Takahama? Have they been checked again to be sure there are no leaks there?

    What will it take for KEPCO, TEPCO, et al and Abe to realize that these 40 year old plants are wearing out?!?

    • Starviking

      Well, that’s what test runs are for – finding problems before the restart.

    • Starviking

      Well, that’s what test runs are for – finding problems before the restart.

    • Starviking

      Well, that’s what test runs are for – finding problems before the restart.

    • Starviking

      Well, that’s what test runs are for – finding problems before the restart.

  • fromjapan

    Actual state of self-styled “World’s best safety standard” of Japan.

    also,Nuclear-industrial complex of Japan often tamper with data about safety.

    • Starviking

      And yet KEPCO reportd this even though it was under the limit for reporting…

    • Starviking

      And yet KEPCO reportd this even though it was under the limit for reporting…

    • Starviking

      And yet KEPCO reportd this even though it was under the limit for reporting…

    • Starviking

      And yet KEPCO reportd this even though it was under the limit for reporting…

  • aVij

    If people knew the real history of the radiation business and actually would pay attention to that history, they’d know that any account by official authorities, whether in Japan, the US, or Russia, etc, is probably one more distortion and lie they feed the public with.

    The general public is totally clueless that all the big nations dedicated to nuclear power, medical radiation, and militarism using radioactive weaponry, such as Japan, France, Russia, and the US, have for decades been claiming (=lying) that low dose radiation is virtually harmless and that their nuclear facilites or medical xrays are safe and of minimal risks to humans, all the while they’ve been carefully hiding or obfuscating the truth about the real scope of danger and harm of ionizing radiation (discussed and referenced substantially in “The Mammogram Myth” by Rolf Hefti) to avoid culpability and to keep the general public deeply misinformed about the actual reality.

    The ultimate aim of all the official propaganda is to discredit and suppress the facts that the lowest possible dose of ionizing radiation is carcinogenic (the pawns of the corporate environment-polluting industries do the same sort of thing about toxicants) and that these corrupt industries are responsible for the death of millions of people.

    The public at large is generally unaware about most of this because the cartel’s dominant disinformation tool is the mainstream media. And their propaganda dissemination is ongoing, keeping the general public hypnotized with a made-up fake reality.

    The racket is profound and systematic. You can see that “in action” in how the corporate press and the mainstream authorities have blacked out what’s really going on at Fukushima, or 9/11 (watch, on youtube, etc, the free online film “September 11 – The New Pearl Harbor”), etc.

    Believing you get the truth from the radiation cartel is like believing you get the truth from the political leadership of a corporate nation. It’s entirely foolish and delusional because both are representative of massive business interests.