Tritium levels increase tenfold at Fukushima after Typhoon Phanfone tears through Japan

By Daniele Pestilli on October 12, 2014
Satellite image of Typhoon Phanfone (Wikimedia Commons)

On Saturday, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that the groundwater collected from a well in proximity of the Fukushima No. 1 plant contained levels of radioactive tritium 10 times greater than those recorded two days earlier. The latest report measured 150,000 becquerels (a unit of radioactivity) per liter, compared to 14,000 Bq on Thursday.

TEPCO officials said this was a result of the heavy rain caused by Typhoon No. 18 (Phanfone), which battered the Kantō region on October 6th killing at least four people and injuring forty-nine. Another storm, monster Typhoon Vongfong, is presently lashing at the main Honshū and Kyushū islands of Japan with gusts of up to 180 kilometers per hour.

A groundwater sample taken on Thursday showed that other beta-ray emitting radioactive materials, such as strontium-90, had also reached record highs. One well contained 1.2 million Bq, whereas another well east of reactor No. 2 contained 2.1 million Bq of a beta ray-emitting radioactive substance. Radioactive cesium in the same sample had risen 70% to 68,000 Bq.

The highest level of tritium measured so far was on January 20th, when 32,000 Bq per liter were recorded at one of the 34 measuring points found in-and-around the disaster stricken Fukushima power plant.

The Wall Street Journal published an article on September 17th explaining that Kurion Inc., a nuclear and hazardous waste management company based in Irvine, California, is expecting to sign a contract with the Japanese government to remove tritium from wastewater. Kurion's technology captures radioactive tritium in water and separates it. However, the company's present service can only remove tritium from 20 tons of water a year. The founder, John Raymont, said Kurion is seeking to build a module that can handle 20 tons a day.

In the meanwhile the Japanese daily, Asahi News reported today that Prime Minister Shinzō Abe is looking to restart the Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai nuclear power plant despite multiple anti-nuclear rallies which have been held throughout the country. On September 23rd, rally organizer and former Nobel Prize-winning author Kenzaburo Ōe said the Abe administration’s decision to rescind Japan’s self-imposed ban on using force to settle international disputes is precisely in line with its plan to restart nuclear reactors, as both are extreme and “high-handed.” Quoting the words of a post-war author, Ōe remarked: “As long as the most shallow-minded sort of optimists are trying to set the stage for war, I believe that we pessimists have to stand firm in moving forward.”