IAEA Report On Fukushima Dai-ichi Sites Cautious Gains

The fourth International Atomic Energy Agency review of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Generating Station disaster site in Japan concluded that significant progress had been made in contaminated water management and worker safety, but said difficult cleanup challenges remain.

Fukushima Dai-ichi cleanupThe fourth report, following the previous review in 2015, noted the cleanup “remained a very challenging task,” and urged the current team of players involved in the massive undertaking remain well connected and coordinated. The 13-member review team specifically named Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF), Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) internal unit the International Research for Nuclear Decommissioning and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) as critical actors in the cleanup process.

While applauding the “multi-layered approach” to water management now in place, including sub-surface drainage, improved storage capabilities and the recently created underground ice wall to slow the flow of water through damaged buildings, the review team noted progress in turning the site from an emergency status to one of stabilization. Overall, “the risk reduction strategy is being implemented at a pace commensurate with the challenge of the site-specific situation,” an IAEA summary of the report said, adding that progress here amounted to “progress being made towards the removal of spent fuel from Unit 3 and then Unit 1 and Unit 2.”

Improvements aside, contaminated water remains a critical weak link in the improvements at the site, representing an increasing threat that the site will run out of storage capacity. “Despite the improvements in addressing the root causes contributing to the generation of contaminated water, the IAEA Review Team continues to identify water management as critical to sustainability of decommissioning activities.” Specifically, the volume of Advanced Liquid Processing System treated water is “expected to reach the planned tank capacity of 1.37 million cubic meters within the coming three to four years.” Considering space limitations, “further treatment and control of the stored water before disposition would be needed for implementation of any of the five solutions considered by the Japanese Government.”

“A decision on the disposition path should be taken urgently engaging all stakeholders,” the report says.

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