Tepco may evaporate tritium-laced Fukushima water instead of ocean release


Tokyo Electric Power Co. may evaporate or store underground tritium-laced water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant as an alternative to releasing it into the ocean, according to the man in charge of decommissioning the facility.

The removal of hundreds of thousands of tons of water containing tritium, a relatively harmless radioactive isotope left behind in treated water, is one of many issues facing Tepco as it tries to clean up the wrecked plant.

Tepco wants to release the tritium laced water to the ocean, a common practice at normally operating nuclear plants around the world. However, it is struggling to get approval from local fisherman who are concerned about the impact on consumer confidence and have little faith in the company.

With the release into the ocean stalled, the government task force overseeing the cleanup is looking at letting the water evaporate or storing it underground, Tepco’s chief decommissioning official, Naohiro Masuda, said Wednesday at the close of a seminar on the decommissioning.

Masuda said he doesn’t know when the discussions will be completed and a decision made.

Time and space is running out for Tepco, which has been forced to build hundreds of tanks to hold contaminated and treated water.

The evaporation method was used after the Three Mile Island disaster in the U.S., but the amounts were much smaller, Dale Klein, an outside adviser to Tepco, said last week.

“They have huge volumes of water so they cannot evaporate it like they did at Three Mile Island,” Klein said. “If they did, it would likely be evaporated, go out over the ocean, condense and fall back as rainwater. There’s no safety enhancement.”

Tepco has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima No. 1 was wrecked by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and three reactors underwent meltdowns.

Water flushed over the wrecked reactors to keep them cool enough to prevent further radioactive releases is treated, but current technology can’t remove tritium.

“They really do need to make a decision,” Klein said. “Storing it in all those tanks, you are just asking for failure.”

Missteps and leaks have dogged the efforts to contain the water, slowing down the decades-long decommissioning process and causing public alarm.

“I think they will need to make that decision,” U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Stephen Burns said when asked at a media briefing Wednesday at the U.S. Embassy whether Japan should release the tritium-laced water.

  • Starviking

    “If they did, it would likely be evaporated, go out over the ocean, condense and fall back as rainwater. There’s no safety enhancement.”

    Time for Fukushima fishermen to fact reality perhaps?

    • jimhopf

      You mean face the fact that this would not have any impact on any fish they catch, i.e., no increased radiation level, or consumer dose at all?

      Aren’t they already screening all food coming from the area for radiation? The fishermen should no that this would not cause any readings, or cause any fish to be rejected. This is public psychology triumphing over facts. How about educating the public?

      • Starviking

        I mean that the realistic alternatives are: dump the trititated water in the sea, or evaporate it.

  • jimhopf

    They must not surrender to stupidity and mindlessness. Release it into the ocean!! It’s obvious to anyone who knows anything at all about the science of tritium (chemically indistinguishable from water, dilutes rapidly, never concentrates…..) that this will have zero impact. If they spend huge amounts of money on a pointless task, it will be tragically absurd.

    • lol

      go read about the consequences of tritium in the human body and in the dna. This stuff is highly toxic and damages the DNA from the inside.

      It is not chemically indistinguishable from water because the aditional neutron changes the energy state of the electron in the hydrogen atom. Which is incompatible with our biology (it acts differently).

      enuff said.

      • jimhopf

        ” the aditional neutron changes the energy state of the electron in the hydrogen atom.”

        Absolutely not. The (electrically neutral) neutron has absolutely no effect on the electron, its energy states or anything else.

        Tritiated water acts just like water (chemically) in the body and within the ocean. It’s toxicity is entirely due to the emitted beta radiation. More to the point is the fact that it would rapidly dilute to negligible concentrations within the ocean. Any that is ingested leaves the body very quickly.

      • Jortiz3

        The force between two magnetic dipoles falls as r^4 (magnetic moment – magnetic moment interaction), while the force between two electric monopoles falls as r^2. This immediately shows you that magnetic dipole interactions, the only ones that occur between the nucleus and the electron, are absurdly weak. I want to find the relative magnitudes, but to give you an idea, fine structure corrects (the interaction of an electron’s moment with its orbital moment) is a correction of something much smaller than one in a million.

        Secondly, the quantities of tritium are absurdly small to be considered for chemical effects. While nuclear effects like beta-decay are visible, chemical effects are about ten to a hundred million times smaller, and are imperceptible on all levels.

        The main effect of heavy isotopes of water (heavy water) is to slow down metabolism through the sheer weight of carrying around extra neutrons. This has nothing to do with energy levels. If you had enough tritium to slow down an organism’s metabolism, that organism would be worth about a hundred million dollars in tritium, and you should immediately attempt to sell it on the black market before nuclear agencies tell you to hand it over.