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article imageAward-winning manga comic upcoming about Fukushima disasters

By Sandy Dechert     Mar 26, 2014 in Environment
Japanese manga artist Kazuto Tatsuta worked on the Fukushima Daiichi I nuclear plant cleanup. He had to quit in December 2012, when his radiation exposure neared the annual limit. Kodansha Ltd. is publishing Tatsuta's initial book about his experiences.
“I just want to keep a record for history. I want to record what life was like, what I experienced,’’ Tatsuta (his pen name) told the Associated Press this week. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plant operator, declined to comment on the illustrated book.
TEPCO had more bad news this week about its liquid waste processing. One of three advanced water filtering systems malfunctioned and again shut off radionuclide filtering at the plant. Japanese media reported a similar incident last week: “Levels of beta ray-emitting radioactive substances, such as strontium-90, only dropped to several tens of millions of becquerels from several hundred million becquerels, instead of decreasing to several hundred becquerels."
The triple disaster of the Tōhoku earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and three meltdowns at the Fukushima I nuclear power complex have caused TEPCO problems since 2011. The company has made some progress removing fuel from endangered Reactor Unit #4 to a safer location, but it has had numerous problems with water at the site: recurrent leaks of radiation, water in the basements, groundwater infiltration, storage tank and storm-related leakage and rainwater overflow, radioactive contamination of the ocean, and several isotopes of cesium released into the port and from there across the Pacific to the US West Coast.
The new Advanced Liquid Processing System for removing radionuclides has experienced a long and troubled implementation since its design plans were announced in February 2012. The ALPS trial run was able to begin 13 months later.
In June, leaks forced stoppage of the initial test. On September 27, testing resumed, but it was halted 22 hours later, when the equipment had problems discharging mud, possibly due to human error. After restart, problems continued. A ground fault in February took out one of the three channels. Operator error (an overloaded booster pump) caused another channel to malfunction on March 6. Last week, the new multiple nuclide removal array--was not purifying radioactive water as designed. The system was not yet at full capacity and was still in testing. The company stopped both the malfunctioning purifier and its two allied units, the latter two as a precautionary measure.
ALPS is the most vital part of the initial radioactive discharge suppression scheme of TEPCO’s overall 40-year stabilization plan, the company says. If/when it attains full design capacity, ALPS will process 750 tons of carcinogenic water every day. The three-channel system cannot dispose of the tritium component of this water, but it is designed to treat wastewater high in many other radiation types. This capability will make it key in controlling the ongoing radioactive water crisis at Fukushima.
The company has not yet decided a plan of action for the tritium-contaminated water processed by ALPS. Japanese media report that TEPCO hopes "to finish processing contaminated water at the plant, including some 340,000 tons currently kept in storage tanks, by the end of next March (2015). To accomplish this, it plans to expand the capacity of ALPS. The government also plans to develop a high-performance version of ALPS that leaves less radioactive waste than the current system.” However, next March is attainable only if the system works as designed.
Lack of national funding for necessary environmental studies is a major concern at Fukushima. Other issues include the possible need to supplant TEPCO leadership with a large, publicly financed project; inadequate training and criminal groups participating in the cleanup workforce, which has so far employed about half a million people; and government censorship alleged by Japanese academics. New nuclear generation in Japan is another critical issue, marked by struggles between the ruling conservative Liberal Democrat party, the past administration, and a divided but badly upset public. Needless to say, the country's plans to combat climate change by weaning from fossil to renewable energy have been almost totally sidetracked.
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