Decommissioning Fuku-ichi: A pie-in-the-sky mid- and long-term roadmap

By Ban Hideyuki (CNIC CO-Director)

The Inter-ministerial Council for Contaminated Water and Decommissioning Issues announced the 5th Edition of the Mid- and Long-Term Roadmap towards Decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units (below, “the Roadmap”) on November 27, 2019[i]. We compiled a table of “milestones” (progress toward main goals) that were listed in each edition of the Roadmap (omitting the 2012 revision for the sake of space).

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Apparent aberrances in control of the amount of contaminated water generated are suspected to be due to malfunctioning of the frozen soil “ice wall.” One new item in the Roadmap is an attempt to complete removal of the spent nuclear fuel stored in the fuel pools of all units, 1 to 6, by fiscal year 2031. They say the delay in starting fuel removal operations at units 1 and 2 is due to changes in the method of retrieving the fuel, and that the reason for making these changes in mid-course of work was to be doubly sure that the scattering of radioactive substances could be prevented. They say removal of fuel debris is to start in 2021 with Unit 2. Removing this debris will probably be the biggest challenge. They have run into difficulties with the submersion method, with the containment vessel filled with water, so they have adopted an aerial method, inserting a device through the side of the containment vessel. After commencing this operation, they say they will expand it step by step. The contact search at Unit 2 only covered an area of about 30 square centimeters to begin with. It is hard to believe that they will find any “steps” to step on without running into complications.

Most items in the Roadmap clearly specify a starting time, but many fail to include a time for completing them. Projected completion of the final decommissioning measures remains unchanged at 2041 to 51. They should probably reconsider the completion time.

[i] TEPCO presentation materials

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