As if Tokyo Electric Power Co., the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, didn’t have enough problems, another daunting task is what to do with an estimated 90,000 tons of radioactive water.
This vast amount remains from the pumping of water to cool reactors after the plant’s regular cooling systems were disabled in the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and seawater from the tsunami.
The problem is growing by the day, as the volume of contaminated water keeps increasing.
TEPCO needs to treat and recycle contaminated water escaping from the facilities to maintain the cooling of the reactors without increasing the volume of contaminated water.
It signed a deal with France’s Areva SA, a nuclear engineering company, to start treating the radioactive water in June. But Areva’s equipment is capable of treating only 1,200 tons a day, and it is not clear if it can handle a total of 90,000 tons.
In dealing with this volume of contaminated water, the plant’s No. 2 reactor presents the most serious challenge of its four stricken reactors.
Workers discovered on April 2 that highly radioactive water gushed into the sea through cracks close to a pit near an intake of the No. 2 reactor. Technicians spent a total of 93 hours before successfully plugging the leaks on April 6.
The contaminated water came from buildings housing the No. 2 reactor and turbine as well as a trench.
TEPCO is transferring the contaminated water to a disposal-and-treatment facility in the compound to prevent further overflow.
The total amount of contaminated water at the No. 2 reactor was estimated at 25,000 tons before the transfer work got under way, equivalent to about 400,000 terabecquerels of radioactivity.