300 tonnes of highly contaminated water leaked from a tank at Fukishima Daiichi last week. There are now about 1000 such tanks on site and two or three new tanks are being constructed every week to store heavily contaminated water that has been used to cool the plant’s radioactive cores. None of the tanks are built to withstand seismic events. True.
And then there is the approximate 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater that flows from the site and into the Pacific Ocean every day…that’s approximately 300 tonnes every day for the past two and a half years and 300 tonnes every day for the foreseeable future.
There are no publicly available records of exactly what the contamination is that is coming from the plant (ie, the different isotopes and or quantity therof), or any publicly available record of how much contamination is in the environment or where in the environment it is. But it seems reasonable to demand that strident, immediate and comprehensive measures be taken to stem the flow of contamination from the site and, if possible, to clean up the site thereafter.
There are huge and often unique engineering problems at Fukishima Daiichi..
These problems have been left in the hands of Tepco. Tepco are an operating company, not an engineering company. Meanwhile, due to the local levels of contamination, the workforce is being cycled through at a fairly alarming rate. Which raises questions about the capacity to train future workers fast enough.
Meanwhile, the latest proposal to halt groundwater flowing through the site and contaminating the ocean involves creating an artificial zone of permafrost extending for just under 1.5 km and extending downwards some 40m. And no, I’m not making this up or sourcing from sci-fi sites. Here’s the link to an MiT article on the proposal.
One core has already melted and escaped its containment vessel (requiring constant cooling and subsequent storage of the daily 300 tonnes of coolant water). One other could conceivably melt down in the event of a further large earthquake in the vicinity. So it’s no small cheese.
The existing and possible problems have not ever (as far as I can tell) been tackled before. Cores have melted. But they have remained contained. And no site has presented workers with such a heavily contaminated environment amidst so much wrecked infrastructure.
So, maybe we’re talking about the largest and most serious industrial accident in history; one that will run for decades and present never seen before scenarios…and an operating company has been left in charge of things?!
If ever there was a case for intervention by an international task force, this is it. We need the best engineers and access to all of the best plant, machinery and ideas we can muster.
And that’s just accounting for (some of) the technical/engineering front.
The mounting environmental impacts…eg, strontium etc accumulating in the food chain and the general spread of contamination; the human health consequences that have received scant attention… eg,the massive percentage of tested children who had enlarged thyroids, or the potential consequences from the approximate 10 ‘hot particles’ per day that people breathed in the immediate aftermath of this accident beginning – these would require separate posts.
I guess I can end as I began, by thanking god that the world’s most powerful men are switched on and focused to any wanton poisoning of civilians. Now we just have to wait for the inevitable response to be unleashed…
Meanwhile, if you want to access high quality information while we wait, try this site and links leading from it.