2013-09-03. Errors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site.

posted Sep 6, 2013, 9:41 AM by Alan Gould
For GSS Energy Use chapter 4. Excerpt: NARAHA, Japan — In this small farming town in the evacuation zone surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, small armies of workers in surgical masks and rubber gloves are busily scraping off radioactive topsoil in a desperate attempt to fulfill the central government’s vow one day to allow most of Japan’s 83,000 evacuees to return. Yet, every time it rains, more radioactive contamination cascades down the forested hillsides along the rugged coast. ...The government announced Tuesday that it would spend $500 million on new steps to stabilize the plant, including an even bigger project: the construction of a frozen wall to block a flood of groundwater into the contaminated buildings. The government is taking control of the cleanup from the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company. The triple meltdown at Fukushima in 2011 is already considered the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.  ...Some critics have dismissed the “ice wall” as a costly technology that would be vulnerable at the blackout-prone plant because it relies on electricity the way a freezer does, .... Nuclear experts also questioned the government’s longer-term plan to extract the fuel cores from the reactors, which if successful would eliminate the major source of contamination. Some doubted whether it was even technically feasible to extricate the fuel because of the extent of the damage during the explosions and subsequent meltdowns. Even at Three Mile Island, where the reactor vessel remained intact, removing the fuel by remote-controlled machinery was a tricky engineering feat. While great strides have been made in robotics since then, damage to the containment vessels at Fukushima makes the problems there much more complex. Molten fuel not only piled up like wax from a candle on the vessel floor, as at Three Mile Island, but ran through cracks into the piping and machinery below.... http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/04/world/asia/errors-cast-doubt-on-japans-cleanup-of-nuclear-accident-site.html. Martin Fackler, New York Times.