Two giant nuclear consortium are forming to manage the cleanup of the Fukushima site, remove of all reactor fuel, and eventually make it a much less dangerous place. The first consortium is composed of General Electric and Hitachi with support from Exelon and Bechtel. The second group is led by Toshiba which is partnered with the U.S. branch of Areva, the French state-owned nuclear giant. Babcock & Wilcox and The Shaw Group are part of the Toshiba team.
The cost of decommissioning the six reactors could be as much as $12 billion and take more than a decade to complete. Industry experts agree this won’t be an ordinary job to tearing down a safe and cold reactor. For instance, to remove the spent fuel from Unit 4, a giant superstructure will have to be built around the devastated secondary containment structure to safely load the hot fuel assemblies underwater into special transportation casks.
The job is so big that the two consortium are reported to be having exploratory talks to combine forces. So far TEPCO, the utility that owns the site, hasn’t said how it plans to pay for the cleanup. The Japanese government is said to be considering a form of receivership for the Fukushima site which would allow taxpayer funds to cover cleanup costs and pay compensation to people forced to evacuate their homes within the 13 km government defined danger zone around the plants.
The government is expanding the evacuation area working with people in so-called “hot spots” where radioactive cesium ejected from the reactors has been found at levels above the danger limits. The C-137 has a half life of 30 years which may present long term management problems for these hot spots