TOKYO, April 4, 2014- After nearly two years of discussions, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have reached an important agreement that will allow implementation of a plan to allow clean groundwater to bypass the Fukushima Daiichi plant and flow in a controlled manner into the sea, subject to stringent safety and environmental controls.
The framework for the agreement had been reached last week, but final agreement was subject to TEPCO's response to the associations' March 25 requirements for clear standards on discharge and operation, independent verification of the measurement data, broad public communication on safety of the discharge, and firm compensation for the fishermen who may be negatively affected by rumors. The company has agreed to comply with all these requests.
"This is an important agreement that demonstrates our commitment to working with the Fukushima community, and the fishermen in particular, to move forward together in an environmentally responsible way," said TEPCO President Naomi Hirose. "I want to applaud the fisherman for taking a difficult decision, and express to them our commitment to carry out our obligations diligently."
The controlled discharge is due to start its operation after final discussion with the fishermen and the government.
Reduced Burden on Water Storage
Once in operation, the groundwater bypass system will divert the flow of naturally occurring groundwater between the hilltop and the contaminated building basements built on lower ground. This will reduce the amount flowing into the building basements by a maximum of 100 tons from the current amount of around 400 tons/day to 300 tons/day.
Diverting this groundwater will reduce the volume of water that becomes contaminated and then needs to be cleaned and stored on site. This, in turn, is expected to reduce the burdens on the storage facility by slowing the pace of contaminated water accumulation.
The fishermen's agreement to the water discharge is conditioned on the water meeting strict protection standards and assurances that the protections are met. For example, any released water will have less than 1 becquerel per liter of Cesium-134, a byproduct of nuclear fission that has a half-life of around two years, or Cesium-137, of which half-life is approximately 30 years. This is a much stricter requirement than the drinking water standard set by World Health Organization of 10 becquerels per liter. Typically, drinking water standards are much stricter than discharge standards, and the decision to meet the stricter standard reflects the agreement's commitment to environmental protection and public health.
Dr. Dale Klein, the chairman of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, also praised the agreement: "It is gratifying to see the fishermen and TEPCO reach agreement on this important step, which will protect the environment, ease the stress on water storage, and lay the groundwork for important improvements in water management at Fukushima."
A video explaining the bypass system may be seen at http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2014/201404-e/140404-01e.html
Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (TEPCO) is Japan's largest power company, supplying energy to the greater Kanto area, including Japan's two most populous cities, Tokyo and Yokohama. Its 35,000 employees are committed to providing safe, reliable power to its 28.8 million customers, diversifying energy resources to ensure sustainability, and contributing to economic growth while fully meeting its responsibilities after the Fukushima Daiichi accident.