“There is still a highly alarmed area, where people cannot have free access,” said Masumi Ishikawa, TEPCO’s general manager for radioactive fuel management.
Ishikawa and other Japanese scientists visited Savannah River Site this week to explore remediation technology developed by Savannah River National Laboratory, which has been cooperating with Japan in a joint cleanup venture with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.
“Fukushima has specific needs” Ishikawa said, through a translator. “We are trying to see what technologies here can be applied to the needs of Fukushima.”
Even after almost two years of nonstop cleanup work, managing the flow of water contaminated with radiation continues to be one of site’s most significant challenges, he said.
“We are still seeing leakage,” he said. “That is an important challenge we must meet.”
Maintaining the essential flow of cooling water to the melted reactors, he said, has been complicated by the need to remove and treat contaminated groundwater that has seeped into the reactor areas since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
SRNL scientists are sharing expertise in groundwater management and cleanup, along with other remediation techniques used in radioactive areas.
“For us, this is the second visit to the site,” Ishikawa said, noting that Savannah River Nuclear Solutions scientists have also made trips to Fukushima.
Jim Marra, a Savannah River National Laboratory advisory engineer, said the visitors were able to see old U.S. Cold War reactors that were successfully decommissioned.
“They have a roadmap and cleanup plan that goes 50 years into the future,” Marra said. “While they are here, they can see the end states – they can see firsthand that there can be results and successes.”
Fukushima’s triple meltdown is regarded as the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and its cleanup has captured the attention of the world.
Although it is still too soon to determine when – or if – residents can return to the area, Ishikawa said the plant site will almost certainly play some sort of role in the future.
“Our new prime minister explicitly has said, Japan’s revitalization will not happen without the revitalization of Fukushima Dai-ichi,” he said.