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New ALPS system approved by NRA

February 22, 2013-02-22


Nuclear regulator conditionally approves new water purifier tests at Fukushima plant



An expert panel of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) conditionally approved the test run of new water purification equipment for radiation-tainted water at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The decision, which came Feb. 21, approves the use of the purification system ALPS, a multinuclide removal system. Since the system does not remove tritium, however, NRA did not approve the release of processed water into the ocean, a scheme that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is exploring.

Approximately 230,000 cubic meters of radiation-tainted water used to cool melted down reactor cores in the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors is being stored at the nuclear plant, with the water volume still increasing. The purification system currently in operation only removes cesium, but ALPS removes 62 nuclides, including strontium and plutonium.

The panel concluded that instituting the ALPS system would reduce risks from radiation. It approved a test run of the system on the condition that the storage vessels for radioactive materials that are removed from the water are tested multiple times to ensure they are strong enough that the contents do not leak in case they are dropped in transport. Once TEPCO has fulfilled this criterion, NRA will decide whether to approve the actual test runs.

Because high concentrations of tritium will remain in the water even if the ALPS system is instituted at the plant, NRA ordered that the water be kept within the plant even after processing. TEPCO plans to build additional water tanks by September 2015 to increase its storage capacity to 700,000 cubic meters, but the tanks are expected to be filled in 2 1/2 years.

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