On Friday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company released the following statement:
After nearly two years of discussions, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) have reached an important agreement that will allow implementation of a plan to allow clean groundwater to bypass the Fukushima Daiichi plant and flow in a controlled manner into the sea, subject to stringent safety and environmental controls.Here's NEI's Steve Kraft on the significance of this agreement:
Once in operation, the groundwater bypass system will divert the flow of naturally occurring groundwater between the hilltop and the contaminated building basements built on lower ground. This will reduce the amount flowing into the building basements by a maximum of 100 tons from the current amount of around 400 tons/day to 300 tons/day.
Diverting this groundwater will reduce the volume of water that becomes contaminated and then needs to be cleaned and stored on site. This, in turn, is expected to reduce the burdens on the storage facility by slowing the pace of contaminated water accumulation.
For a detailed explanation about the problem of groundwater contamination at Fukushima Daiichi, watch this video from TEPCO.
The agreement with the Fukushima Fishermen's Association -- now in full force -- will allow TEPCO to reduce the inflow of ground water (about 400 tonnes/day - over 100,000 gals) to the contaminated water they have to deal with and store in the tank farm that is rapidly filling.
While the standards for discharge (1Bq/l Cs-134 and Cs-137) is a tenth of the World Heath Association standard for drinking water (and you cannot drink seawater), it is appropriate in these circumstances as is the continued compensation of the fishermen.
This type of agreement and discharge has been recommended by many organizations and individuals, including NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane during her last visit to the site.
The importance of this step cannot be overstated. It will pave the way for future agreements that will allow TEPCO to make progress in site clean-up. We look forward to the day that a similar agreement will allow the discharge of clean water from the tank farm and reduce the challenges of storing such water over the near and long term.