Japan sets 2020 as possible start of removal of melted fuel from the Fukushima reactors.
Back in June, The Japan Times published an article containing a rough time table for the work of decommissioning and decontaminating the Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima.
I would lime to examine one aspect of the plan: the removal of the melted fuel from reactors 1,2 and 3. Originally the plan called for removal of fuel from 1 and 2 to begin in 2021. The Japanese government now hopes to begin extraction of the fuel in 1 and 2 in 2020, with work on 3 beginning in 2021. However the timetable is not rigid and the extraction process may not begin till 2022.
This raises some serious questions that have yet to be addressed. How do they plan to keep cooling the reactors? If the reactors are truly in cold shutdown, the melted fuel would still need cooling for a few more years. If the present process of pumping water into reactors at a rate of 400 tons per day continues, management of the contaminated water is going to become an even bigger problem than it is now. There very well could be more than double the present quantity of contaminated water with no permanent home for it.
Tepco and the Japanese government need to look at alternative ways of cooling the reactors. The water can be filtered to remove most of the radioactive materials but not all. A plan needs to be devised for the long term storage of the water. There has already been one instance where a contractor doing decontamination work dumped
340 tons of radioactive water into the Iizaki river, which is used by local farmers to irrigate their rice paddies. Clearly a long term solution to storing the contaminated water must be found. The make shift containers presently being used are already leaking, but if the Japanese government has any long term plan for disposal of the water it has yet to announce them. This urgently needs to be addressed as part of the overall plan for decommissioning the reactors.