Nuclear contaminated water leaking from storage tanks at Fukushima site

Over the last couple of days, Japanese electrical company TEPCO has announced that they found leaks in three of the seven underground tanks used to store contaminated water at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. They've also admitted that the tanks aren't reliable. And here's where we get to the fun part: Despite that fact, there aren't many other options. The water is stuff that's been used to cool down fuel rods that melted during the April 2011 disaster. You have to put water on the fuel rods, or they could overheat again. But once you're done with that water, it's not particularly safe, either, so you have to contain it somehow. And until other options can be built these tanks are the only place to put it. The third, most recent, leak was found when TEPCO tried to move water from the known-to-be-leaky tanks to another they thought was in good shape. This is just a mess.


  1. It’s radioactive and has radio isotopes dissolved in it, so you can’t distill it or concentrate it by evaporation.  You can’t put it in the ground, or it will creep out and contaminate other water.  You can’t release it into the sea, or you’ll contaminate everything for hundreds of miles.  You can’t do anything with it, really, other than treat it as waste.  I say mix it with Pepsi and sell it.  It’s the only way.

    1.  Distilling water means evaporating the water, leaving soluble parts behind. AFAIK the various compounds contaminating the water are far less volatile so destillation could be an option. It is the actual volume of water that is the problem as it takes lots of energy to evaporate it. But the process is done on a large scale in desalination plants. There is also other methods like binding with chemicals, filtering… It’s not like this has never been done before.

      1. In this context:  distillation means powered, controlled evaporation…  vs. “Evaporation” which is leaving the tanks open to the air and letting the water vapor out of it naturally.  However, both process in their regular forms are full of difficulty, since I believe the water molecules are deuteric and tritic and therefore radioactive, so any evaporative process will push that radioactivity into the atmosphere.  Whatever is eventually done, perhaps a specialized fractional distillation process (since deuteric and tritic water DO have very slight differences in boiling point compared to normal water, and the three *can* be separated …carefully…) it will be a most difficult undertaking.  This is in addition to the other dissolved radioisotopes you mentioned, which will of course remain in the concentrate.  But I said what I said because even an evaporative process won’t work here. Nothing practical will work here, except mixing it with that most vile substance, diet Pepsi and selling it to naer-do-wells.

        1.  “Contaminated” very likely means “contaminated with fuel fragments and fission products”  which is all stuff with lower volatility than water. Yes, nukes generate tritium but this is far from the main contaminant of the water. Most of the water will be normal H2O with nasties like Cs-137 and Sr-90 dissolved in it. Nukes will not generate 100% tritiated water.

          BTW it’s funny how you first try to flaunt your “science” and then come up with some cynical “solution”.

          1. I’m glad you’re laughing.  I stopped yesterday.  The only sane thing to do in the face of insanity is throw absurdity in its face.  I highly doubt the water is as pure as you are saying.  That water is horrid, vile stuff, tritic and all sorts of shit.  Do you have evidence to back up your claim that it’s devoid of excess neutrons?  If you do, please share it.  But otherwise, that water should be treated like Loc Na’ar water: as evil as Evil comes.

          2. You are trying to mythicize this problem. It’s water with nuclear waste. Nuclear reprocessing plants process far more “evil” stuff. The problem is the volume, contamination and leaky tanks, not some perceived “evilness” of the water.
            You should know that there are people that actually have to cope with this problem instead of reading about “evil” in some fantasy book.

  2. “Following the Fukushima meltdowns, the White House falsely assured the
    public the fallout would not reach the US. The Environmental Protection
    Agency then failed to release evidence that its RadNet monitors detected
    radioactive iodine and cesium in West Coast rainwater. In Japan, when
    radiation levels rose above “safe” levels, Tokyo responded by raising
    the “allowable” exposure to radiation. The US did the same. The US has
    cut back its monitoring of fallout from daily detection to quarterly
    tests. With the Fukushima meltdowns still not contained, this is

    “A nuclear engineer once observed: ‘Nuclear power can be safe and nuclear power can be cheap. Just not at the same time.'”
    -Gar Smith.

    There are so many excellent breakdowns of how corrupt, deceitful, and insecure the nuclear industry and all the players holding them up are. My god, the largest builders of nuclear plants act like housing developers, dropping rates and cutting corners in an attempt to out compete each other. Then this stuff happens. I do not believe this problem has no engineering fix.

  3. If you spot iodine-131 you know it is from a recent industrial release, because it has such a short halflife (8 days). even in the tiniest concentrations it is easy to detect and identify with gamma-ray spectroscopy. if you detect it shortly after a nuclear incident you can say with high certainty, “we detected radiation from X”.

    But it does not mean that radiation levels are dangerously higher than they were before the incident. they could have gone from 2mSv/year to 2.00001mSv/year, you could still detect the iodine component.

    if you want to worry about dangers to your health, there should be a lot of things on your list before Fukushima fallout.


      if you want to worry about dangers to your health, there should be a lot of things on your list before Fukushima fallout.

      The OP doesn’t even mention fallout let alone the risk to someone’s health from fallout.

      Of course, radioactive fallout is only one of many possible problems introduced by the use of nuclear power.  This article seems to be about one of the other problems: the difficulties of safely storing and/or disposing of radioactive waste water.  Do you have anything to say about the issue at hand?

  4. Soft admission of a problem to distract from a much larger problem.  They have no plans in place to deal with all this waste water.   This is bad, and I believe the truth is probably actually much worse.  Or, is it a way for them to blame the water table contamination on something other than the missing reactor cores?

  5. I still don’t know why they haven’t mixed CONCRETE with the water in these tanks yet…  Sheesh..  This isn’t rocket science.


      This isn’t rocket science.

      Nuclear engineering is almost certainly more difficult than rocket science.

      If you’re not a nuclear engineer you might consider that people a great deal more knowledgeable and experienced than you are already working on the problem.

      1. Sure, but most of them are fuck-ups.  If they weren’t fuck-ups, we wouldn’t ever be in the messes we are in constantly with nuclear power generation. 

  6. What happened to that Russian ship the Japanese help pay for that is built for treating radioactive water with reverse osmosis?

  7. THe problem with nuclear power is not the technology, it’s the social systems surrounding it.  The Fukushima plant had three workers die about a decade ago, from concentrating radioactive isotopes by pouring the water containing them into a vat with buckets, until there was enough to go critical and cook them.  There have been a lot of other similar, if less fatal pisodes in Japanese nuclear power plants.  A couple years after that, a whistleblower publicized massive safety violations at the Fukushima plant, and was promptly blacklisted and drummed out of the industry.   It is technically possible to do nuclear power safely, if you have a social structure surrounding it that can enforce the procedures (including eg retiring old plants immediately if a design flaw is found).  The problem is that the kind of qualities you would find in people who could pull this off are totally different, and, in some cases incompatible with the qualities necessary to rise to a position of sufficient power in  a political organization to have the authority to enforce them.

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