OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – Nearly a thousand storage tanks are scattered across the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, holding a staggering 1.1 million tons of treated water used to keep its melted reactor cores cool while they rust in the sun.
Plant manager Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., or Tepco, plans to build more of the gigantic tanks to hold another 0.27 million tons, which is roughly the equivalent of 108 Olympic-size swimming pools. The new tanks are expected reach full capacity in four or five years.
Each tank takes seven to 10 days to fill and holds between 1,000 to 1,200 tons of liquid, Tepco officials told reporters during a tour in February organized by the Japan National Press Club. It’s been eight years since Fukushima No. 1 suffered three core meltdowns triggered by tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake, but the situation with the tanks may be a sign Tepco has yet to get the facility under control.
The International Atomic Energy Agency published a report in November that said the physical constraints of the site “leave little room for additional tanks” beyond what Tepco has allocated.
The IAEA report went on to say it believes storing tainted water in “above ground tanks . . . can only be a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed” and a “decision on the disposition path should be taken urgently.”
Beyond 2020, Tepco has not allocated any additional space for holding treated water on the site and has no plans to do so at this time. The utility said the tanks will likely become a headache if they remain at the plant.
Eight years ago when the monstrous tsunami hit, the entire plant lost power and reactors 1, 2 and 3 lost coolant, causing their cores to overheat. The fuel rods consequently melted, dripping molten fuel that burned through their pressure vessels and pooled in their primary containment vessels. Reactors 1, 3 and 4 then suffered hydrogen explosions.
Tepco must inject water into the reactors indefinitely to keep the melted cores cool, but water tainted by contact with the fuel and associated debris has been leaking from the damaged containment vessels and into the basements of the reactor buildings, where tons of fresh groundwater flows in daily through holes in their damaged walls. […]