More than two years into the triple-meltdown crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, workers continue to wage a desperate battle to keep the stricken reactors cool while trying to contain the 400 tons of radioactive water produced by the process each day.
As of May 7, Tepco had routed 290,000 tons of radioactive water into some 940 huge tanks at the complex, but 94,500 tons remain inside the basement floors of the reactor buildings and other facilities.
Tepco must perpetually pour water over the melted cores of reactors 1, 2, and 3 via makeshift systems to prevent the fuel from melting and burning again.
But the cores’ containment vessels were damaged by the meltdowns, allowing the highly radioactive coolant water to leak and flow into the basements. The dangerous radiation levels have prevented workers from getting close enough to fully assess the damage, let alone start the decommissioning process.
Compounding the problem is some 400 tons of groundwater that is also entering the basements of the tsunami- and explosion-damaged buildings, mixing with the leaking coolant water.
Tepco has been operating a water-recycling system to drain the basements that is supposed to extract cesium before recirculating the water back to the reactors. But the added inflow of the groundwater is exacerbating the threat.
In response, all Tepco has been able to do is build more storage tanks.
Tepco is proposing some of the water be dumped into the sea after processing it to remove most, but not all, radioactive isotopes. Local fishermen strongly oppose the plan as it will taint the image of their produce.
Previous discharges into the Pacific have effectively contaminated the sea. Failure to store it means it will probably flood the whole compound and end up in the ocean anyway.
Neither Tepco nor government experts have come up with any other viable solutions.