TOKYO (Nikkei)–The government has told the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to activate a new water treatment system next month and take other actions to deal with the buildup of radioactive water.
Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi gave the instructions on Monday, when he inspected a site where a makeshift tank leaked 300 tons of contaminated water.
He said the government will “step forward” with support for the effort.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) was told to start up the Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS, in mid-September and to weld shut the leaky tank, which had simply been bolted together. The utility was also instructed to take better care of the tanks, by making sure drain valves are closed, etc.; check the area for leaks four times a day rather than twice; and to assess the risks of storing contaminated water.
Motegi compared Tepco’s response to the water situation so far to a game of “whack-a-mole.” He drew a line between the “structural problem” of groundwater seeping into the plant and what he called “problems with Tepco’s maintenance,” such as lax valve inspections.
To stem the flow of groundwater into the plant, plans call for circulating refrigerant through the soil to create a frozen barrier around reactors 1-4. Similar techniques have been used in construction projects but never at the site of a nuclear disaster. Experts predict it will prove a daunting feat, both technically and financially. The government had been looking to provide for this and other measures in the fiscal 2014 budget, but Motegi said contingency funds may be tapped for immediate aid.
ALPS, the water treatment system supplied by Toshiba Corp. (6502), was supposed to have begun operating last autumn. It is designed to remove 62 of the 63 types of radioactive materials in the water. Once fully activated, it should significantly reduce the huge volume of highly contaminated water now held in row after row of tanks. This will also help keep water circulating through the reactors to cool them.
Filed under: 8.Eathquake & Nuclear accident