Sunday, December 1, 2013

Fukushima radioactive water decontamination delayed by hydrochloric acid leak

Water storage tanks at Fukushima
The trouble-prone water decontamination system at TEPCO's crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant sprang a hydrochloric acid leak and had to be shut down on Sunday. The acid is used to neutralize alkaline water used in decontaminating the radioactive water that cools the damaged nuclear reactor piles. While only a tiny amount of acid leaked, it forced the shutdown of a system that was to have played a crucial role in the Fukushima site cleanup.

The Fukushima nuclear reactors were damaged and had nuclear meltdowns following a massive earthquake and Tsunami in March 2011. The damage is so extensive that the normal cooling systems aren't functioning, and TEPCO is having to pour massive quantities of water onto the nuclear piles to cool them down.

In an inspection of the Advanced Liquid Processing System, TEPCO engineers found Hydrochloric acid leaking from a pipe joint. They surrounded it with a plastic bag, which has collected only 1 liter of acid.

This system was in trial operation, and has been expected to play a crucial role in treating contaminated water at the Fukushima site. The system was due to have gone into full operation on Sunday.

In late September, plastic padding was found clogging pipes in the same system. In October, it had to be shut down due to a programming mistake.

TEPCO is facing a huge task, with storing hugely massive quantities of water that had been used to cool the nuclear pile. That radioactive water cannot be released, and given the massive amounts of water required to keep the nuclear piles cool, TEPCO has built a huge array of storage tanks. However the problem is not scalable due to the number of years that will be required to cool the nuclear piles, hence the amount of water and storage tanks that will be required. Any kind of water decontamination system will alleviate the need for on-site water storage.

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