Above Photo: A large number of storage tanks on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant hold water processed to remove most radioactive substances. (Kazutaka Eguchi)
By the summer of 2022, storage tanks holding processed water on the grounds of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will become completely full, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.
That marks the first timetable the utility has set on when capacity will be reached in the tanks holding the water processed to remove most radioactive substances.
Analysts said setting a deadline for the tank capacity allows TEPCO to push the central government and other entities to take action on the volume of contaminated water that continues to accumulate at a rate of about 150 tons a day.
TEPCO officials are expected to present their estimates at an Aug. 9 meeting of a subcommittee under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry looking into dealing with the contaminated water.
The triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami produced piles of melted nuclear fuel in three reactors at the plant.
The melted fuel continues to be cooled, but that results in the build-up of water contaminated with high levels of radioactive substances.
Groundwater has also seeped into the reactor buildings, increasing the high volume of contaminated water.
While most of the radioactive substances are being removed through processing equipment, tritium remains in the processed water, which must be stored.
Large storage tanks have been constructed on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which currently store about 1.05 million tons of processed water.
TEPCO continues to install new storage tanks, but space limitations mean that by the end of 2020, a maximum storage capacity of about 1.34 million tons will be reached.
Utility officials claim that even if groundwater volume was decreased, the storage tanks would become full of processed water by about summer 2022.
One option being considered by the central government is to dilute the processed water and gradually release the water into the ocean. But local fishermen are fiercely opposed on the grounds the negative publicity generated by that action would hurt their future sales.
Sources said the industry ministry was planning to present another option of storing the processed water for a long period outside the Fukushima plant site. Fukushima fishermen had requested that such an option be considered to avoid negative publicity that would hurt their livelihoods.
However, TEPCO officials have expressed doubts about whether that option will ever get off the table. For one thing, finding a community that would be willing to host such a storage site would be extremely difficult. TEPCO officials also said problems would arise in transporting the processed water from the Fukushima site to a new location, including the possibility that radiation could be released during the transportation process.
After the ministry subcommittee considers how to deal with the processed water, the central government will decide on a basic plan after coordinating with other relevant parties, including the local governments involved.