Yesterday on All Things Considered, Richard Harris covered the progress that is being made at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. As the main effort to keep the damaged reactors cool, workers have been continuously pumping water into the plants. While this has been a positive effort to mitigate the current conditions, it has created a significant amount of radioactive water. Now to access and begin the clean-up work at the facility, workers must treat this water.
So how is this being done? Here is an excerpt from the report:
“The challenge is to remove radioactive cesium and other elements that are dissolved in the water. The water is being pumped from the flooded basements into holding tanks. From those tanks it will go through a filtration system, something like a charcoal filter, and that captures some of the radioactive material.
Next, the water will run into a system built by the French nuclear company Areva. They use a chemical reaction to turn the dissolved cesium into a solid material. “In our step of the process, the radioactive material precipitates out like rain and settles in the bottom of the tanks, where it forms a radioactive sludge,” says company spokesman Jarret Adams. “And that sludge can be removed from the tanks and sent for long-term storage.” They use this process at other nuclear facilities, and Adams says it works quite well.
And then what happens?
Cleaning up all this water is likely to take a couple of months. If the water is clean enough, Japanese officials could decide to dump some of it into the ocean. But in the short term, they plan to run it back into the plant. That will keep the cores relatively cool. And as long as they stay cool, they won’t ooze more radioactive cesium into the water.
“I think this is an important step forward because once they begin treating this water, then they’ll be able to get into the plant and start doing significant repairs,” Adams says.
Read the rest of the story and listen to the piece “Fukushima Workers Tackle Highly Radioactive Water,” here.
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