TEPCO’s Trench Saga Could Have Unintended Consequences

TEPCO has made multiple attempts to deal with the unit 2 trench full of highly contaminated water. In 2011 they tried to block leaking water in the area. After it was admitted in 2013 that the tunnel still contained highly radioactive water, plans were put in place to empty the tunnel of water.

First TEPCO tried to freeze it, then they dumped in ice when the freezing didn’t completely work. The next attempt was to dump concrete in the end near the turbine building. As they tried to empty the trench they realized it was still somehow filling back up with water. They also cited that the water going back in must also be contaminated as radiation levels were not going down.

The latest attempt began today. They are dumping in a hydro-cement to try to fill the trench with concrete while pumping out contaminated water. TEPCO said this work would result in considerable worker exposures. TEPCO now plans to do the same tactic to the trench for the unit 3 reactor that they admit has the same problem.

TEPCO also admitted this highly contaminated water in the trench is mixing with groundwater and making it out to sea. This is the first really clear admission of this mechanism by TEPCO. They also now admit to the NRA that all the efforts at the unit 2 trench earlier this year were not necessary and were unlikely to work. They did not say why they didn’t advocate for the concrete filling of the trench back then and instead did two rounds of considerable work they knew wouldn’t work.

Currently the mechanism for more highly contaminated water to reach the trench and refill it either isn’t understood or isn’t admitted by TEPCO. This makes the work to fill the trench even more risky. The concrete filling of the trench could have new consequences if it forces this flow of highly contaminated water to take a different route rather than stopping it from flowing. Without knowing the exact source of the water and the exact route it takes to the trench, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

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