In the information about Fukushima’s last admitted leak, I went across a lot of news articles and found that the tanks which are leaking have rubber instead of welding that holds them together. It doesn’t matter what is designed if decisions are going to be made when it matters that put dangerous radioactive liquid into tanks that aren’t in any way safe for them.
All five of the temporary tanks involved in the leaks were collapsible and held together by rubber seals, meaning they were less durable than those with welded seams.
Tepco’s tank leaks blamed on seals, reassembly
AP, AFP-JIJI, Kyodo
In looking for solutions, I found the photos from the article above and others which show the entire facility’s storage tanks with this radioactive water in them. They don’t look like any double-walled tanks. They aren’t surrounded by any encasement system like concrete or anything else and they don’t even have welded seams in about 300 of them.
Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean up its radiation-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to seek outside help.
The approach to cooling and scrapping the plant will need to change and include technologies developed outside Japan if the cleanup is to succeed, said Vladimir Asmolov, first deputy director general of Rosenergoatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear utility.
Outside help offered to deal with Tepco debacle
U.S., French experts also ready; water woes escalate
This article (below) also has a good look at the tank farm of radioactive liquid waste accumulating at the Fukushima nuclear facility – evidently, the normal safeguards used to store and transport waste of this kind aren’t even being used – but why not? And in the look for leaks, the stories have been horrendous – which begs the question, why don’t they put infrared “night goggles” on a pair of robotics and send them around to take pictures which would likely show up leaking spots in pipes and tanks as a big white obvious blob on the computer?
I don’t get it.
Scientists, pointing to stubbornly high radioactive cesium levels in bottom fish since the disaster, had for some time suspected the plant was leaking radioactive water into the ocean. Tepco repeatedly denied that until last month, when it acknowledged contaminated water has been leaking into the ocean from early on in the crisis.
Some 1,000 steel tanks built across the plant complex contain nearly 300,000 tons of partially treated contaminated water. About 350 of them have rubber seams intended to last for only five years. Company spokesman Masayuki Ono said it plans to build additional tanks with welded seams that are more watertight, but will have to rely on rubber seams in the meantime.
Shinji Kinjo, a regulatory official in charge of the Fukushima disaster, said the rubber-seam tanks are mostly built in a rush when the contaminated water problem started, and often lacked adequate quality tests and require close attention.
Workers have already spotted two more questionable tanks during inspection Thursday.
Tepco hit for failing to foresee menace of radioactive groundwater, tank leaks
I don’t know what they have paid for those tanks or to build them compared to more appropriate ones, but it seems obvious that the cost of having built them that way is going to be substantially more than having done something right in the first place. Most of the casks for storing liquids contaminated by radioactive materials are double hulled and surrounded by something like concrete for containing and shielding the radioactivity emanating from the materials.
They didn’t do that on these tanks and there are over 3500 of them or something – it is insane. How temporary is it when they’ve been sitting there for months and will continue to sit there that way day after day corroding, leaking and creating an even bigger disaster than what it already is? Even someone with a grade school education wouldn’t have made that kind of mistake with decisions about what to put radioactive waste in to store it for any length of time.
When I was looking about trying to understand this better, I found this technology that is known in the nuclear industry for use on waste materials – particularly liquid / water contaminated radioactive waste products –
Synroc is composed of three titanate minerals – hollandite, zirconolite and perovskite – plus rutile and a small amount of metal alloy. These are combined into a slurry to which is added a portion of high-level liquid nuclear waste. The mixture is dried and calcined at 750 °C (1,380 °F) to produce a powder.
The powder is then compressed in a process known as Hot Isostatic Pressing (HIP), where it is compressed within a bellows-like stainless steel container at temperatures of 1150–1200 °C (2102–2192 °F).
The result is a cylinder of hard, dense, black synthetic rock.
So, it isn’t that the technologies don’t exist. In the wikipedia entry about Fukushima, it has a list of the efforts made to clean the water partially using several technologies they have bought and installed. It reads like a nightmare and so far, although the news articles say that much of the stored water was put through those systems to clean part of the radioactive materials from it – the list makes it obvious that not much of it could’ve been put through those systems at all. They have failed, leaked and shut down nearly every time they have been used.
I wondered if the materials being used for pipes, valves, pumps, filtration liners and other elements coming into contact with the polluted radioactive materials are actually appropriate to withstand those contaminants. Are they plain old iron pipes or what? That isn’t funny, but I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity of it. To have the highest paid, most high degree holding professionals with these decisions in their hands making this level of bad choices which will affect the whole world – really isn’t laughable. It is horrific.
Its tanks, which are used to keep the coolant that prevents the damaged reactors from overheating dangerously, are considered to be unsuitable because they were made for other industrial purposes. They were adapted following the emergency, but they are nearly full. TEPCO estimates that it has already reached 85 percent capacity, although plans to create a more permanent facility have so far not materialized. The latest leak was the fifth time that toxic water escaped from a basin.
TEPCO has been slow in measuring the levels of radioactive elements that have flowed out of the station, as well as publishing its data. The company finally revealed this month that highly unsafe tritium and cesium levels had been detected in the seawater near the plant. A concentration of these elements could damage the marine environment and build up in marine life, possibly endangering humans further up the food chain.
Fukushima operator pleads for international help as radiation crisis deepens
Published time: August 22, 2013 22:21
In the article above, an overview of these tanks makes it obvious that they are not in any way appropriate for the storage of nuclear materials. The chemical slosh that makes up the radioactive water they are placing in them includes boron, possibly sea water, cesium, tritium, and no telling what all else – all of which are corrosive in a number of different ways on any materials.
The information below concerns transporting waste – however, it shows the level of what is known for these “hot” materials such as those at Fukushima when it comes to storing, handling, transporting and dealing with them – it is not an “unknown” –
Many different nuclear materials are transported and the degree of potential hazard from these materials varies considerably. Different packaging standards have been developed according to the potential hazard posed by the material.
‘Type A’ packages are designed to withstand minor accidents and are used for medium-activity materials such as medical or industrial radioisotopes. Ordinary industrial containers are used for low-activity material such as U3O8.
Containers for high-level waste (HLW) and used fuel are robust and very secure and are known as ‘Type B’ packages. They maintain shielding from gamma and neutron radiation, even under extreme conditions. There are over 150 kinds of Type B packages, and the larger ones cost some US$1.6 million each.
Packaging for radioactive materials includes, where appropriate, shielding to reduce potential radiation exposures. In the case of some materials, such as fresh uranium fuel assemblies, the radiation levels are negligible and no shielding is required. Other materials, such as used fuel and high-level waste, are highly radioactive and purpose-designed containers with integral shielding are used. To limit the risk in handling of highly radioactive materials, dual-purpose containers (casks), which are appropriate for both storage and transport of used nuclear fuel, are often used.
Although the group below studies the subject, exists to solve the problems and is certainly aware of how the Fukushima situation is being handled – or rather mis-handled, what good is it? There was nothing done in the last two years that prevented the operators at TEPCO and their executives from deciding to do it this way and to pollute every future generation as a result. Just look at the number of dams in Fukushima prefecture, the number of families that subsist from fishing, the number of communities already designated permanently uninhabitable and the places around the world receiving those contaminants from ocean currents, air currents and other global interactions. Why don’t they understand the impacts of these things when decisions are being made? Why aren’t the nuclear regulatory groups internationally able to do anything about any of it? What is their purpose if not that?
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management
From a caption under a photo on the Weather Channel Slideshow at the bottom of this page entitled – Japan’s Dirty Tsunami Cleanup – in this photo it is obvious that radioactive waste was both collected and now stored in plastic garbage leaf bags like those any of us use on a Saturday afternoon taking out the household trash.
A worker walks past bags of radioactive waste at a temporary waste storage site in Naraha, just outside the exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan on March 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
From the massive list of muck-ups in the efforts to clean any of the radioactive water being used to cool the reactors at this point on the Fukushima Daiichi complex – (found on wikipedia)
On 27 June TEPCO started cooling the reactors with decontaminated water. About 1,850 tons water were reprocessed. The system was halted only one and a half hours later after discovering water leaking from the pipes. However, water was found leaking from unfastened pipes. A TEPCO-operator said, that they failed to check the 4 kilometers of piping, because during an inspection more than 2 weeks before there was no problem found. By 28 June, it was reported that the system had already treated approximately 7 230 cubic meters of contaminated water. On 29 June the system was restarted again, however due to leaking contaminated water storage tank it was stopped again.
This is probably an extremely accurate statement of fact – that there is water leaking out all over the site at Fukushima and there are no accurate readings of the radioactivity there which is happening as a result –
A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.
Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.
He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.
Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’
22 August 2013 Last updated at 05:32 ET
This is one entry from an extensive list which describes the constant start ups of systems intended to take the contaminants or at least some of them from the water and then the pumps would fail or the systems stop on their own without obvious reason, leaks would happen, filters would stop working, valves be in the wrong position, etc – meaning that those expensive reverse osmosis systems and others (there are several) haven’t been used long enough to do much of anything to clean the water being used to cool the reactors. And then it was pumped into these “storage barrels” that weren’t designed for this type of waste materials.
TEPCO warned after recurrent leakage of radioactive strontium-contaminated water
At the beginning of December 2011, another leak was found in the desalination plant at the facility. As on 5 December some 45 tons of water heavily contaminated with radioactive strontium escaped, of which 150 liters of water found its way into the ocean through a ditch connected with the beach. Within 10 days another leak was found: 30 liters had escaped from the piping, but according to TEPCO it had remained on the plant. The outflow stopped after the valves were closed. Because of this NISA sent a stern warning to the operator of the plant, requiring TEPCO to investigate the cause of the leaks and prevent them in future.
On 5 April 2012 at 1.00 AM a leaking pipe was found. The leakage stopped an hour after the valves were closed. 12,000 liters water with high levels of radioactive strontium were lost, according to TEPCO much of this water escaped through a nearby sewer-system into the ocean. Investigations should reveal how much water was lost into the ocean, and how the joint could fail. A similar leakage in at the same facility happened on 26 March 2012.
But that is nothing compared with this – and even that will be nothing compared to the newest problems with leaks and contaminated water seeping into groundwater and making its way to the ocean and elsewhere –
The first approach to prevent tunnel water from leaking into the sea was to pump the tunnels dry. Beginning on 27 March, operators attempted to pump water from the turbine hall basement (see the tunnel below diagram #2) to the condenser (the large black vessel). By pumping water out of the basement, TEPCO expected to lower the trench water level, and reduce the likelihood of overspill to the sea. However, “both condensers turned out to be full”, which prevented pumping. Therefore, pumps able to shift 10 to 25 tons of water per hour were used to move condenser water to storage tanks, freeing condenser storage for water that was in the basement of Unit 2. However, since both the storage tanks and the condensers were nearly full, TEPCO also considered using tankers or a “mega float” as a temporary storage location for the radioactive water.
Regardless of the availability of offshore storage for radioactive-contaminated water, TEPCO decided to pump its least contaminated water, approximately 100 times the legal limit, from a wastewater treatment plant, out to sea on 5 April to free storage space.).
At the same time, on 5 April, TEPCO began pumping water from the unit’s condensers of Units 1–3 to their respective condensation storage tanks to free room for the trench water.
So, they basically “turned out” the contents of the wastewater treatment plant straight into the ocean in order to free up space to put more contaminated water – or something – it is too bizarre to consider that they know what they are doing or are capable of deciding when their actions prove so far to not appreciate the impacts both long-term and in the immediate future of what they are doing.
Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.
“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.
“What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.
(from – which includes an overview / aerial view of Fukushima recently showing the multitude of tanks in its new tank farm – none of which were made to withstand nuclear and extremely corrosive materials)
What’s more – they are going to continue using both the rubber seamed tanks that have been leaking by adding more of them AND the welded seam tanks which are intended for other industrial purposes and not radioactive waste water with corrosive chemicals in it as well –
TEPCO says it will build additional storage tanks with welded seams that are more watertight, but that it will continue to use the rubber-seamed tanks despite at least five of them having leaked since last year.
This article has two photos done in infrared of nuclear waste materials being transported – and obviously they show up as heat on these kinds of instruments and photography – which would include “night goggles” and other infrared sensor equipment. So why do the Fukushima operators have trouble finding leaks from pipes and tanks at their source? Surely they can afford to outfit a few small robotic rovers with night goggles and a signal of what it finds back to their computers. How much would that cost – $150 each or something – sort of a Roomba thing with night vision? How hard is it really?
This infrared image shows railroad cars carrying 123 tons of nuclear waste.