– TEPCO seeks to reduce groundwater flowing into reactor buildings (Mainichi Japan, April 24, 2012):
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said Monday it aims to halve the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings by building about a dozen pumping wells.
The groundwater currently gets mixed with highly radioactive water accumulating inside the reactor buildings and adjacent reactor turbine buildings, resulting in an increase in the total amount of contaminated water at the plant.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. thus wants to use the wells to direct part of the groundwater into the Pacific Ocean, likely to be about 1,000 tons per day, before all of the groundwater flows into the reactor buildings and elsewhere.
The utility known as TEPCO would check the contamination level of the groundwater before releasing it into the sea.
“By creating a groundwater bypass, the amount of water flowing (into the Nos. 1 to 4) reactor buildings is expected to be reduced by about 50 percent,” TEPCO said in a paper submitted to a meeting of the company and the government to check the progress toward scrapping the four reactors.
A government official, who briefed reporters about the meeting, said the groundwater bypass is likely to start operating around September or October.
The Fukushima plant has been plagued with highly radioactive water accumulating inside reactor buildings and reactor turbine buildings as a result of the continuing injection of water to cool the stricken Nos. 1 to 3 reactors.
The water is recycled as a coolant after reducing its radioactive level through a water-processing facility, installed after the plant was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year.
But tanks storing the processed water could eventually become full partly because of the groundwater.
Meanwhile, the chief of a government-appointed panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear accident said Monday it has questioned Naoto Kan, who was the prime minister when the nuclear crisis erupted.
Yotaro Hatamura did not elaborate on the exchanges during the hearing, telling a press conference he thinks it is “not appropriate,” but added he felt Kan spoke “frankly about his thoughts at that time.”
The hearing, which lasted several hours, was not made public because Kan did not strongly wish for it to be, an official of the panel’s secretariat said.
The panel plans to compile its final investigation report in July.