TEPCO faces tough challenges after ‘cold shutdown’ of Fukushima nuclear reactors
The government declared on Dec. 16 that the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant has been brought to a stable “cold shutdown,” paving the way for full-fledged work to decommission the plant’s crippled nuclear reactors, but enormous financial difficulties loom for the operator of the nuclear complex.
Officials have determined it is likely to take more than 30 years to decommission the troubled nuclear reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant, but it is hard to predict the total cost of scrapping the reactors.
“We can’t see the whole picture when it comes to the cost of decommissioning the nuclear reactors. We can’t imagine expenses spanning 30 to 40 years from now,” said a senior official of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the nuclear power plant.
The costs will certainly take a heavy toll on TEPCO. The government has started to consider injecting taxpayers’ money into the utility in a bid to rescue the beleaguered company, but the company faces managerial problems that are likely to come to a head soon.
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Paper with ties to power plant cancels anti-nuke book
By HIROTAKA KOJI / Staff Writer
With increasingly heightened public concern over nuclear power after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident, a related scandal came to light over a possible attempt by a newspaper company to conceal anti-nuclear statements.
Read the fine print…
Fukushima’s Dismantling to Start as Cold Shutdown Announced
Japan’s Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the Fukushima nuclear reactors have been brought to a state of cold shutdown, a disputed milestone that will likely allow the return of some evacuees and eventual dismantling of the plant.
Speaking at his office in Tokyo, Noda said today that the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) had contained the nuclear crisis that occurred after the reactors in northeast Japan were crippled by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
“A stable condition has been achieved, and we can consider the accident itself contained,” Noda said.
Cold shutdown describes a reactor’s cooling system operating at atmospheric pressure and below 93 degrees Celsius (200 degrees Fahrenheit), according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The utility has released data showing it meets these criteria at Fukushima, the site of the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, though some nuclear scientists say the term doesn’t apply to melted reactors.
“Achieving cold shutdown does not change the condition of the reactors,” Tadashi Narabayashi, a former reactor safety researcher atToshiba Corp. (6502) and now a nuclear engineering professor atHokkaido University, said by phone. “It does mean the government will start reviewing evacuation zones and perhaps lifting restrictions depending on extent of contamination.”
While the status of the reactors is in dispute, it remains that swathes of land, towns and villages in Fukushima are highly contaminated by radiation fallout and are likely to be uninhabitable for two decades or more.
Radiation has forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people and the government has yet to say how many can return and when.
“We want to make a united effort for them to return home as soon as possible and rebuild their livelihoods,” Noda said.
Tokyo Electric has battled explosions, aftershocks, equipment breakdowns and leaks of contaminated water after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit the plant and knocked out power to reactor cooling systems. Three reactor cores subsequently melted, causing the biggest civilian nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.
The utility, known as Tepco, said in September it had restored stable cooling of the three reactors at the Dai-Ichi plant and reduced their temperatures below 100 degrees Celsius. Last month, it assessed the radiation exposure at the plant’s boundaries at 0.1 millisievert a year, below its target of 1 millisievert a year.
The drop in radiation was the second of two criteria imposed by the country’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency before the watchdog would consider the plant stable.
It’s an achievement to have restored cooling and gotten water temperatures to 100 degrees, said Arnie Gunderson, a Vermont-based nuclear engineer who has testified to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Fukushima, said in a phone interview.
“But I don’t know why they choose to say cold shutdown because that’s an affront to those in the industry who really know what the term means,” he said. “That nuclear core is still in a configuration where the center is extraordinarily hot.”
Besides maintaining stable cooling of the reactors and spent-fuel pools at the plant, Tepco has to manage storage tanks holding millions of metric tons of contaminated water.
‘Hardest Part Starts’
“Now the hardest part starts, which is the cleanup,” said Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Southern California, who worked as a consultant on decommissioning Chernobyl.
Experiences in other countries show the scale of the task still facing Tepco as it begins decommissioning the reactors, and cleaning contaminated waste, even without the complications posed by the damage at Fukushima.
Cold War weapons production in the U.S. left the country with “a significant nuclear cleanup legacy, including high- level waste, contaminated soil and groundwater,” Daniel Poneman, the U.S. Deputy Secretary at the Department of Energy, said in Tokyo yesterday.
The Hanford Site in Washington State and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina have more than 90 million gallons of liquid waste in tanks the government is working to convert into more stable forms that do not threaten the environment, he said.
Japan’s government has requested support from the U.S. to decommission the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant as well as managing the site from an environmental perspective, he said.
“Work on decommissioning is a long way off. For now, they have to focus on making robots to remove melted fuel and developing new technologies to demolish facilities,” said Narabayashi at Hokkaido University.
In addition, there are about 7 kilometers of plastic pipe in the makeshift cooling system that will need to be replaced with metal versions, he said.
Gunderson said that declaring the cold shutdown at Fukushima risks further eroding people’s faith in the government’s ability to regulate the nuclear power industry.
“I actually think it’s going to blow up in their face,” he said. “In the eyes of the Japanese public, the last thing they need to do is exaggerate. And this is an exaggeration.”
Former Japanese PM Hatoyama: Fukushima Reactor 3 Nuclear Explosion Likely
It turns out that former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama had more than just the recriticality back in March and April to talk about in his Nature article that was published on December 15, a rather awkward day it must have been for the Noda administration who was going to declare the end of the Fuku I Nuke Plant accident.
Even though the original English version of the Nature article is only available to the subscribers,Nature Asia has the full translation made available to anyone.
In the article, he and his co-writer Tomoyuki Taira talks about the possibilities of recriticality (chlorine-38 detection), nuclear explosion of Reactor 3, and melt-through of the corium contaminating the groundwater.
No wonder Yomiuri Shinbun, when writing about Hatoyama’s article in Nature magazine, decided to only mention TEPCO nationalization and recriticality in March/April – a subject safe enough to talk about now.
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A worker at Daiichi says the government is lying: Will make an attempt at translating tomorrow…
Japan tsunami flotsam begins washing ashore in B.C.
For the past few days a variety of bottles, cans and even pieces of lumber with Japanese writing have been carried by currents and the wind up to Tofino. Dec. 15, 2011.
Updated: Fri Dec. 16 2011 08:32:40
Jean-Paul Froment, a longtime area resident, says he’s used to seeing things wash up on the beach, but has never seen such a large quantity of debris? at once.
Tofino mayor Perry Schmunk said municipal workers will take special care in cleaning up the retrieved items.
“We will treat the whole thing with respect because everything that has come ashore has dealt with a significant human tragedy,” said Schmunk.
The tsunami, which came after one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, claimed more than 15,000 lives and damaged more than 100,000 buildings.
The flotsam now arriving in B.C. heralds a much larger cluster of debris on its way. Russian sailors have reported spotting a giant floating cluster of material, estimated to be twice the size of Texas, about 2,700 kilometres east of Hawaii. The items include a fishing boat marked “Fukushima.”
Initially, scientists thought it would take until early 2013 for the debris to arrive in Hawaii, but it is moving much faster than expected.
In November, American oceanographer updated that predication, saying his computer models showed that drifting boats and houses could be arriving in B.C. at any time.
“When you look at what floats in the water . . . you will see find many objects travel three times faster than surface water,” he told CTVNews.ca last month, saying large objects can travel across the north Pacific at a speed of about 35 kilometres a day. “Those objects stick up so high out of the water they actually catch the wind and sail very fast.”
A smaller object — propelled only by the ocean current — travels at closer to 11 kilometres a day.
He warned cleanup crews and local officials should keep public safety in mind when handling and disposing of large objects, saying it’s possible they could still contain radioactive water.
Via ENENEWS at:
Published: December 16th, 2011 at 03:08 PM EDT
By ENENEWS ADMIN
CNN: Spent fuel rods are “very damaged” — Fires from heat at SFP No. 4 are believed to have damaged reactor building (VIDEO)
Japan marks nuclear reactors milestone, CNN reporter Paula Hancocks, Dec. 16, 2011:
At 1:20 in
At 3:00 in