Saturday, May 24, 2014

Fukushima’s Ground Water

At Fukushima, the nuclear power station has started to pump ground water into the Pacific Ocean — and believe it or not, this is considered progress.

It is progress because the water in question comes from behind an underground barrier installed to protect ground water flows from nuclear sediment. The water being pumped into the Pacific is surely contaminated with radioactive materials to some extent — this is a question the government and power company have not addressed directly, for obvious reasons. It is perhaps better not to ask, as there is no obvious alternative. The new pumps avoid or at least delay the prospect of having diluted nuclear cooling water spill directly into the ocean.

Engineers are working on a plan to filter the nuclear cooling water to clean it up enough that it too can be released into the ocean. There is too much water on site, in surface tanks and underground, for the real work of containing the out-of-control reactors to begin, so it is a problem that will have to be solved somehow. The power station is still in the very early stages of cleanup. It is something that nuclear engineers had warned us about from the beginning — when a nuclear installation gets thoroughly messed up, setting it right can take a very long time indeed.