Steam seen at Fukushima Dai-ichi as experts dismiss lingering water fears
By Hiroshi Hiyama, AFPTOKYO--Vapor has begun rising again from a reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, more than two-and-a-half years after its core melted down, the site's Japanese operator said Friday.
September 14, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Tokyo Electric Power said it believed the steam was coming from a puddle sitting atop the reactor and was not dangerous, but it has not been able to clarify why vapor has started appearing occasionally since July of this year.
TEPCO said the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant remained stable, with sensors in and around it showing no increase in levels of radioactivity being released.
The steam appeared as TEPCO found more evidence that radioactive waste water at the plant was contaminating groundwater that is on its way to the sea.
Thousands of tons of water were poured on the reactors to tame the meltdowns sparked by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
TEPCO says ther temperature is now stable but they need to be kept cool with water to prevent them running out of control again.
This is leaving the company with a large and growing amount of radioactive water in temporary storage tanks, some of which have leaked and very likely contaminated groundwater.
TEPCO and Japanese officials are considering releasing some of the water into the Pacific Ocean after filtering out radioactive particles, but face opposition from fisherman and neighboring countries.
U.S. nuclear experts, hired by the utility to offer advice, said if done properly, the release into the sea can be done safely.
But the company must engage the public in meaningful ways about its plans in order to ease health and environmental worries, said Lake Barrett, a former U.S. official who worked on the clean up of the Three Mile Island accident between 1974 and 1985.
Barrett and Dale Klein, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, who now leads TEPCO's reform committee, said the water cannot stay in the tanks forever.
But media portrayals of public health risks at Fukushima have been “out of proportion” and have helped generate fears over plans to sensibly deal with the water, Barrett said.
Some facilities such as heavy water reactors routinely release certain radioactive materials into the environment without posing significant health risks, he said.
“The water is an extremely sensitive public matter. People are rightly concerned about that. Now the levels are so low that they shouldn't be as concerned as they are,” Barrett told a press conference.
“The perceived aspects of the water far exceeds what it really is from a technological, engineering, scientific point of view,” he said.