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Of course it can't be cleaned-up.

Where the hell can a gazillion liters of radioactive water be safely stored in Japan?  Even if they have the stainless steel containers to put it in.  Which they don't.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 01:07:32 PM EST
The sea. The pacific already has a billions of tonnes of natural radioactives in it, so diluting the cooling water into the ocean slowly would be safe.

Uhm. done correctly, anyway. One needs to avoid local concentrations at any point.

by Thomas on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 02:32:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't just dilute in a general fashion. Local concentrations depend on natural factors like wind and currents. "Doing it correctly" would be likely to turn out complicated and expensive.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 03:05:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Several of the links point to TEPCO trying to do it correctly, and finding that none of the efforts, repeat, none, have stopped the leaks to the ocean or the groundwater. Leaks at ridiculously high levels not seen before.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 03:38:04 PM EST
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There are links in the article which claim the ocean does not dilute as expected, including a recently declassified study from early Pacific bomb testing.

Even if there is a dilution effect, the levels currently being seen are so far over the border that the high levels will now continue to flow for several lifetimes of the various elements.

and Thomas, if you want to argue "The pacific already has a billions of tonnes of natural radioactives in it," then you have to source what the natural elements are, and how they compare in radioactive effect to the highest concentrations of non-natural radiation that have ever been leaked into salt water.

We're not comparing radon in Denver cellars to several core melts leaking into the seas. One study in the link predicts higher measurements already in California, though of course I can't vet that.

Also, given the fledgeling science of radiation bio-effects, you need to define the word safe. Noting that nuclear power advocates have different standards for safe than a significant portion of the medical community.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 03:36:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Noting that nuclear power advocates have different standards for safe than a significant portion of the medical community

Crazy Horse where did you learn understatement? ;-)

The reality is that a broad fraction of the pro-nuclear establishment is in denial about the validity of the consensus LNT (linear, non-treshold) model of radiation medicine accepted by the evidence-based community. It's why I never took them seriously, and still don't. Why buy power-generation technology from folks that you wouldn't trust to sell you a used car?

by mustakissa on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 04:05:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
LNT is the best available theory. Problem is, the predicted effects are so weak that it is completely impossible to actually know if it is correct, overly pessimistic, or overly optimistic. the statistical significance of available data is complete crap.

I would really like to see someone actually test it, but I have no idea how to construct a viable protocol for that. Raise a couple million fruitflies in a ultra-low radiation enviorment like a salt mine and use automated scanning on them, then step up exposure to various types of radiation? Getting useful sample sizes would be expensive. And insect models might still not be valid.

by Thomas on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 04:23:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Eh, no. Dumping it into the ocean is the preferred way to get it into every fish-eating nation's food chain.

The "billions of tonnes" is mostly weakly radiating actinides with lifetimes of billions of years like U238 and Th232, which it is just silly to compare short-lived fission products like Cs137 or Sr90 to.

Quite apart from the fact that natural radioactivity isn't harmless either... chronic ionizing radiation effects on tissue are cumulative.


by mustakissa on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 03:59:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It might be possible to form a salt that either would precipitate or that could be evaporated from solution. Then they could build a chemical plant of a scale sufficient to chemically react 99% of the cesium and store the dry chemical in suitable containers. Cesium is nasty stuff. From wiki:
Chemical properties

Caesium metal is highly reactive and very pyrophoric. In addition to igniting spontaneously in air, it reacts explosively with water even at low temperatures, more so than other members of the first group of the periodic table.[7] The reaction with solid water occurs at temperatures as low as −116 °C (−177 °F).[11] Because of its high reactivity, the metal is classified as a hazardous material. It is stored and shipped in dry saturated hydrocarbons such as mineral oil. Similarly, it must be handled under inert gas such as argon. However, a caesium-water explosion is often less powerful than a sodium-water explosion with a similar amount of sodium. This is because caesium explodes instantly upon contact with water, leaving little time for hydrogen to accumulate.[17] Caesium can be stored in vacuum-sealed borosilicate glass ampoules. In quantities of more than about 100 grams (3.5 oz), caesium is shipped in hermetically sealed, stainless steel containers.[7]



The vast majority of caesium compounds contain the element as the cation Cs+, which binds ionically to a wide variety of anions. One noteworthy exception is provided by the caeside anion (Cs−).[21] Other exceptions include the several suboxides (see section on oxides below).

Returning to more normal compounds, salts of Cs+ are almost invariably colorless unless the anion itself is colored. Many of the simple salts are hygroscopic, but less so than the corresponding salts of the lighter alkali metals. The phosphate,[22] acetate, carbonate, halides, oxide, nitrate, and sulfate salts are water-soluble. Double salts are often less soluble, and the low solubility of caesium aluminium sulfate is exploited in the purification of Cs from its ores.

So storing radioactive cesium in its metallic form seems unfeasible at scale, but perhaps as caesium aluminium sulfate it could be stored as a solid. But there would still be the problem of keeping it cool.

A special purpose chemical plant capable of reacting the cesium in the wastewater at three times the scale it is currently being generated and storing it in a secure area, sufficiently seismically stable as to allow for a survivable facility design and above the highest level tsunami have ever reached, could well be technically feasible. But don't expect TEPCO to do it.

Such a facility may cost $50 million or more to build, but it would deal with an ongoing severe problem. The Japanese government should form a separate organization that would be funded directly by the government and charged with doing what is needed in a reasonably cost effective method but not constrained by 'how it is going to be paid for'. It is, after all, the viability of a large area just north of Tokyo and fishing industry for the Pacific shore that is at stake. And dealing with this issue aggressively would be a boon to the economy just now.  

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Fri Aug 2nd, 2013 at 04:07:10 PM EST
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