Japanese company learns management techniques from SRNL

  • Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 12:02 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, January 21, 2013 12:15 p.m.

As representatives from Tokyo Electric Power Company visited Aiken, they discussed the efforts they are making to help remediate the damage caused by the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl explosion in April 1986.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake hit northeast Japan and the resulting tsunami killed almost 20,000 people. The combination of natural disasters caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Ever since the disaster, there has been a worldwide effort to minimize the longterm impact of pollutants released. This effort included forming a partnership with the Department of Energy and its research centers at the Savannah River National Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

Last week, representatives were visiting SRNL as part of an ongoing technology exchange. Expertise from SRNL, specifically in the area of groundwater remediation, are being used to aid recovery efforts.

“In the case of Fukushima, there is a huge amount of ground water being produced each day – 400 tons per day,” said Masumi Ishikawa, TEPCO’s general manager for radioactive fuel management. “This water may be contaminated, so we cannot release to the ocean. So, we must put that into a tank and that is accumulating.”

Remediating and managing groundwater is something the Savannah River Site, as well as the PNNL’s home at the Hanford site in Washington, know very well. Sixty years of experience in managing millions of gallons of highly-radioactive, Cold War liquid waste on the banks of the Savannah and Columbia rivers, respectively, has put a significant brain trust in these sites.

“These are technologies that we can learn from – to that end we have been having a discussion (over the last two days),” Ishikawa said, speaking after he and other TEPCO representatives spent time at SRNL. “At Fukushima, we need to stop the water flow. Where the fuels that are damaged, the reactor which is damaged, along with the fuels that are damaged, there are holes. We are seeing water leakage, we need to cut off and stop from flowing in and flowing out. That is a very important task. We will take in the technologies and apply them to Fukushima.”

But the technological discussions and exchanges are not limited to the United States. TEPCO is working and pooling resources with scientists and engineers from the United Kingdom and the Ukraine.

In the UK, TEPCO had a similar fact-finding mission to the one at Savannah River Site. Representatives learned about the UK’s experiences in decommissioning nuclear facilities.

The visit was arranged under the auspices of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the U.K. and Japanese governments in early 2012 on nuclear cooperation, with a particular focus on how the UK can assist Japan in its strategy to deal with the task of clean up and decommissioning at Fukushima.

At SRS, being able to see legacy sites in final state, in situ was an exciting thing for TEPCO officials to see, SRNL advisory engineer Jim Marra said last week, as they have been able to see the end game of cleanup projects. The group visited the site of P Reactor, which has been decommissioned.

In the Ukraine, lessons learned from more than 25-years of cleanup could be invaluable. Especially for the longterm future of the greater area surrounding the Fukushima disaster site.

“For our new prime minister, he has explicitly said that Japan’s revitalization will not happen without the revitalization of Fukushima Daiichi,” Ishikawa said. “We need to take advantage and capitalize on the various wisdoms and insights that are possessed at Savannah River and different places around the globe to make sure that the cleanup is successful.”

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