JapanMonday, November 21

New Option for Radioactive Water

The person in charge of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has revealed a possible new way to deal with the radioactive water stored there: just let it evaporate.

"The amount of radioactive water at the plant continues to increase. We need to find a way to reduce it," says Naohiro Masuda, president of the Fukushima Daiichi Decommissioning Company.

Masuda and his team of 6,000 workers have struggled with the problem of contaminated water. Workers must constantly inject water into the crippled reactors to cool molten debris and then pump it out. Groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings adds to the problem.

Executives with the plant's operator, TEPCO, have said they will continue storing the water on site. Masuda says evaporation is one of the options being discussed.

"Diluting the contaminated water and discharging it into the ocean has been discussed. But another option is evaporating the water. This method was used following the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in the US," he says.

Masuda says the task force of the government is discussing the methods. Masuda's engineers and workers use purification equipment to remove most of the radioactive substance, but they can't remove it all. Local fishermen strongly oppose releasing water directly into the ocean. The evaporation method could be an acceptable alternative for them, although some experts say its environmental consequences are unclear.

Handling contaminated water is just one aspect of the highly complex decommissioning process. Masuda believes that he'll need to rely on the international community for support.

"We'll be cooperating mainly with the United States, Britain, France, and Russia. We're already getting help from people at nuclear-related facilities in these counties. We're learning how to decommission and shut down facilities and deal with contaminated soil," he says.

Masuda promised to share his knowledge in return.

"We will be open and transparent about our situation, sharing the challenges we face, the lessons we've learned, and letting people know when we need help. It is important to use the lessons of Fukushima Daiichi to improve nuclear safety worldwide," he says.

Masuda said he will do his best in proceeding with the decommissioning process.

One town just 10 kilometers away from the site of the meltdown has stood empty since the disaster. People are only allowed to enter during the daytime.

Many other places in Fukushima near the nuclear power plant have also been evacuated. Brining life back to them depends on Masuda’s success.

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