Monday, December 05, 2011

The Leak at Fukushima

No two ways about it:

Some 45 tons of highly radioactive water leaked Sunday from desalination equipment used to decontaminate the radioactive water in Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and it is unclear if any made it to the sea, a Tepco official said Monday.

This isn’t good. No radioactive anything should be flowing anywhere at this point and no excuse mitigates it.

Having said that, the threat seems low:

"Even if all 300 liters reached the sea, the radiation would be diluted, and the amount that escaped is tiny compared with what has already leaked into the sea (on earlier occasions)," said Genichiro Wakabayashi, a radiology professor at Kinki University, playing down the potential danger of the leak. "The leak (even if to the sea or to the groundwater) would not be enough to increase radiation levels in marine or agricultural products in the Tohoku region," he said.

He may be “playing down the potential danger” because that’s all the potential danger there is. But at least as of now, it is not known whether any of the water went into the ocean, if it contains radioactive strontium, and if it does, how much.

"We currently believe the leak will have no effect on the water circulation system or our judgment on whether we've achieved a cold shutdown of the reactors," said TEPCO plant location headquarters representative Junichi Matsumoto.

That’s not much of a response. The story still has too many “may haves” to be certain about it. The international media has been on the job, but details have been widely divergent. Check back on our Japan Updates this week for more on this.

You can check out the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum report about  this here.


BangkaAn interesting story about nuclear energy in Indonesia – it’s planning two plants – contains some tidbits that aroused further curiosity. For example:

The cost of building a nuclear reactor, using the example of Vietnam, may reach Rp 20 trillion (US$2.1 billion). While initial investment is expensive, nuclear plants are cheaper to operate than oil-fueled power plants.

I don’t think most stories from elsewhere would use oil-fueled plants as a reference point, but that’s where Indonesia gets a lot (29 percent, with brown coal at 44 percent) of its electricity from. That’s rather – awful.

And consider this estimation of future electricity needs (form the World Nuclear Organization):

With an industrial production growth rate of 10.5%, electricity demand is estimated to reach 175 TWh in 2013 and 450 billion kWh in 2026. At present a low reserve margin with poor power plant availability results in frequent blackouts.

The nuclear facilities promise to generate a lot of electricity all at once.

Batan then looked for other possible locations for a nuclear power plant, eventually choosing Bangka-Belitung. The government currently plans to build a 10,000-MW reactor West Bangka and an 8,000-MW reactor South Bangka with a launch date of 2021 or 2022.

Batan is the National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan is an acronym for the agency in Indonesian – Badan Tenaga Nuklir Nasional – I like the spelling for nuclear – you can visit it here). Frankly, Batan could probably learn to get buy-in from an area’s residents before setting down a plant,  but there you are.

In the future, Taswanda [Taryo, Batan’s research chief] said, Batan wanted to “improve communication” with the residents of Muria and Bangka and share with them how a nuclear power plant might improve their well being.

“Electricity from a nuclear power plant is very important for industries to expand their businesses, which in the end can absorb more workers,” he said.

So – live and learn. The story points out that Batan will not build any plant, just select a location. And no vendor to build a plant has been solicited much less chosen. So we’ll see if the country has a facility up and running by 2022.

In Bangka Indonesia. I volunteer to – do – anything there. To help the facility. Of course.


Joffan said...

The JAIF report would be more interesting if they were passing on information direct - but according to the top of their report, they're just passing on what they heard from the broadcaster, NHK.

trag said...

How does 300 liters of water mass 45 tons? By my guesstimate, it should be about 300 kilograms, or 660 lbs, or about 1/3 of a ton. Or were there two different quantities of water in the story?