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Fukushima nuclear crisis still unfolding 6 years on


While Japan yesterday marked the sixth anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent Fukushima nuclear disaster, how the aftermath has been dealt with has drawn much attention and concern from all over the world.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (TEPCO), operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, has said it plans to decommission the reactors in about four decades.

However, the difficult tasks such as processing contaminated water, cooling the reactors, and removing nuclear fuel and debris continue to pose serious challenges to the power company as well as the Government.

The massive earthquake and the ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011 severely damaged three reactors at Daiichi facility in Fukushima, which suffered core meltdowns after their key cooling systems were knocked out and backup power supplies were rendered useless.


TEPCO has, since the disaster, successfully decommissioned the number 5 and 6 reactors at the plant, and more than 1,500 fuel rods in the number 4 reactor have been taken out and safely stored.

But removing the melted nuclear fuel rods from the number 1-3 reactors poses the biggest challenge yet to the decommission work, according to experts, and TEPCO, apparently, has not yet come up with a viable solution.

Naohiro Masuda, head of the decommissioning unit of TEPCO, told Xinhua recently that TEPCO will come up with a plan after discussions with the Government this summer, but how the plan will proceed is not yet clear.

One of the difficulties lies in the extremely high radiation levels inside the reactors, and the fact that the actual condition of the melted fuel inside the reactors remains unknown.

The operator of the crippled power plant said last month that levels of radiation as high as 650 sieverts per hour were detected inside the number 2 reactor, much higher than an earlier reading of 73 sieverts per hour in 2012. The amount of radiation is enough to kill a person, even after being exposed for just a brief period of time.

Even robots sent to gather information in the damaged reactor suffered malfunctions and failures, possibly due to extremely high levels of radiation.

The power company said on Thursday that it will attempt to examine the inside of the number 1 reactor next Tuesday using another remote-controlled robot, following a failure last month to robotically look into the number 2 reactor.

There have also been concerns that the melted nuclear fuel residue is eroding the concrete bottom of the safety shell of the reactors, having already penetrated the reactor pressure vessel.

Masuda denied such a possibility, however, saying that “although we don’t have direct confirmation about the concrete bottom of the safety shell, based on other information, we think the residue has not eroded through the bottom”.

“The bottom might have been eroded by 50 or 60 centimetres, but it is as thick as two or three metres, so there is no need to worry,” he added.

To keep the number 1 to 3 reactors cooled, TEPCO has to inject a large amount of fresh water into them constantly. The water becomes radioactive in the process and is then stored in the basement of the reactor buildings.

TEPCO’s “decontamination” facilities can remove radioactive cesium and strontium from the water but not tritium, and now there is close to one million tons of ‘decontaminated’ water stored in giant steel tanks at the nuclear plant, and the amount of water is increasing.

TEPCO released a limited amount of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean after getting approval from the local fishery association in September 2015. But there is not yet enough scientific research to determine the effects of the contaminated water on the sea.

TEPCO has also tried to build a frozen soil wall around the crippled nuclear plant, to prevent groundwater from flowing into the facilities and getting contaminated.

The wall was built by driving around 1,500 steel pipes 30 metres into the soil around the perimeter surrounding the Number 1 to 4 reactors and then pumping liquid calcium chloride at minus 40 degrees Celsius into the pipes to freeze the surrounding soil.

The wall reportedly melted in two places following powerful typhoons last September, raising concerns over the efficacy of such an unprecedented and expensive approach.

According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the cost of the decontamination work, including soil and tree removal, is expected to surge to 4 trillion yen (US$35 billion).

The unprofitable project has also led to an increase in corruption, as evidenced recently by a 56-year-old Environment Ministry employee arrested on suspicion of accepting a bribe.

The employee was found to have given favourable treatment to a construction company in the allocation of clean-up work in Fukushima Prefecture, after he was treated with nice dinners and free trips.

The case is only “the tip of the iceberg”, according to local media, as there have been a lot of rumours about corruption connected to the multitrillion-yen decontamination project.

Jamaica Observer

18 Comments on "Fukushima nuclear crisis still unfolding 6 years on"

  1. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 10:15 am 

    For the amount of financial damage due to Fukushima, Japan could have replaced a large part of its existing fossil-nuclear energy base with a renewable one.

  2. penury on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 10:33 am 

    I doubt that the true extent of the damage to the eco systems of the world will ever be known by the people. The death of the ocean and the species that previously lived around Japan and in the eastern Pacific around the Americas will not be willingly disclosed by any government. Unconfirmed reports of melt downs and explosions have been covered up and hidden, testing of radiation levels except for governments has been severely restricted.

  3. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 12:10 pm 

    Remove the melted fuel rods?
    There is no way to do that.
    It’s all too radioactive. Nobody
    removed melted fuel at Chernobyl.
    You just leave it there.

    They want to have fake work to do,
    for keeping the welfare checks flowing.

    If we just blow up the whole complex
    with a good old-fashioned hydrogen
    fusion bomb, then it all goes away and
    just wait a short 20 years before inviting
    tourists and selling them hamburgers.

  4. Mark Ziegler on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 12:21 pm 

    They are lucky they have the ocean to hide their problems. Hope you don’t mind radioactive seafood.

  5. Go Speed Racer on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 12:23 pm 

    Hey everybody,
    Check it out. The movie ‘Idiocracy’ is now
    reality, fact not fiction.

    The people are so stupid, they buried themselves in a
    garbage landfill avalanche. That’s so much smarter
    than recycling trash and reclaiming all the metals.
    Just pile it up higher, until it all falls down.

  6. penury on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 1:38 pm 

    GSR, have you ever lived in Ethiopia? Have you ever lived in anything resembling poverty conditions? Have you ever seen conditions similar to what these people live under? If the answers to these questions is “NO” you really have no idea what you are talking about.

  7. dkb on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 2:50 pm 

    After everybody left the region when Chernobyl melted down, the wolves moved in, the beavers built dams, nature returns.

    Things get going again.

    Aren’t there radioactive feral hogs running around the Fukushima area, roaming the streets of abandoned towns?

    Humans can’t control everything, even after they turn everything into a huge mess, create the worst circumstances, a whole new world emerges from the aftermath.

    Nature abhors a vacuum.

  8. onlooker on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 3:09 pm 

    Yeah Penury funny when some clueless first worlders make idiotic statements about the poorer regions and people in the world. Like when I once heard a comment referring to poor people around being too horny and sex crazed as an explanation of why some of those regions are so overpopulated. Excuse me all human beings are horny

  9. Carl Sundberg on Sun, 12th Mar 2017 3:17 pm 

    A concrete wall needs to be put in the ocean to form a cooling pond for the reactor that will protect the rest of the ocean from further contamination. Its the only way to limit the impact. Once the area is protected, then heat exchangers can be put in the pond, to run cool water into the pond to take away excess heat to keep the water from boiling. Additional salt can be put into the cooling pond to raise the boiling temperature of the water. The concrete for the protection walls could be flown in from choppers and dropped like its done to pour concrete on high rises.
    This won’t stop the reactors from staying hot and being a hazard, but it could begin to protect the ocean from further contamination.

  10. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 2:11 am 

    Sure I live under poverty conditions.
    I used to be the middle class.
    First came Bush Jr.
    Then came Obama.
    Then came Trump.
    So now, I live in poverty.

    Why does poverty give people the right to
    bury themselves in a garbage avalanche?
    Are you sticking up for dumb poor people?
    If they lit all that garbage then it
    wouldn’t fall down on them.

  11. makati1 on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 3:12 am 

    GSR, NO American lives in poverty. Not even the street sleepers and you ain’t one of them. In the U$, there are food kitchens and church organizations, not to mention government aid up the kazoo. Welfare is NOT poverty. Food Stamps is NOT poverty. SSI is NOT poverty. Medicaid is NOT poverty.

    Come to the Ps and I will show you REAL poverty. I see it everyday. I bet you have not seen a street sleeper in your whole life. An eight year old boy, dirty, wornout clothes, thin, sleeping on a piece of cardboard in the middle of the day, with a paper cup for donations beside him. I have seen several since I have been here, and many adults of both sexes and all ages. There is nothing I can do about it. Just part of life in any country NOT the F$A. Worse in India, or Bangladesh I am sure. All countries kept under the Western plundering boot for the last few centuries.

  12. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 3:53 am 

    India they burn out the street kids eyes with acid, put him on a street corner with a tin cup, so he can beg. The guys who burned out his eyes empty the tin cup, after all they gave him a job and need to have profits. It’s in the movie, Slumdog Millionaire.

    Of course I live in poverty. Try living in 7000
    sq ft and no money for hire maids to vacuum it.
    And the cat shreds a bird in the hallway all
    these GD bird feathers on the carpet and I gotta
    go to work and no time clean it up and 3 months
    later it’s still there in fact she has shredded a couple
    more. So the feathers just lying around
    In the long hallway and I can’t do anything about it,
    and no make money, and
    I am tellin ya poverty really sucks.

  13. Cloggie on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 4:08 am 

    I am tellin ya poverty really sucks.

    It is still much better than being an animal, without shelter, constant on the lookout for prey and at the same time avoid becoming a prey.

    Planet Earth, not for the faint-hearted.

    No wonder that so many religions, constructed by old men with time to reflect on life’s processes, arrive at nihilism.

    Unless of course you are a non-Christian Aryan or a Chinese or a Jew.

    Christianity and Islam: life sucks but fortunately there is a God and afterlife and heaven.

    Hinduism: life sucks and it is best to strip yourself from any desire (“Nirwana”).

  14. makati1 on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 4:27 am 

    You are not funny, GSR. And your tales of movie reality is lacking fact. Your sick mind is typical of Americans these days. Afraid to face the truth. Must scare you shitless to know that your world is collapsing around you and you are powerless to do anything about it.

  15. Davy on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 5:50 am 

    Makati, give it a break. You don’t do shit for poor people. You just talk yourself up and others down. If you show concern for poor people it is only to advance yourself. GSR, is light years ahead of your dumbass in world understanding, why, because he uses comedy to express tragedy. You are just a bitter old man whining about others and falsely praising yourself. That is a horrible way to get old.

  16. Midnight Oil on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 7:10 am 

    Another article concerning Fukushima, Surprise, surprise. So there is no solution and just live with the melt down. Contain the facility and hope the radiation exposure does not create an extinction event.
    Sad to think there are other Fukushimas out there and are just ticking time bombs.
    When TEPCO proposed an “Ice Wall”, that told me they had no solutions.
    Maybe next will be a wall built out of candy canes?
    As far poverty is concerned…that a person can deal with….destitution, if you were existing in that, you would not be tapping away on a keyboard.
    Few, if any here, ever stepped in those shoes..or I should say lack of them.

  17. Cloggie on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 7:27 am 

    Sad to think there are other Fukushimas out there and are just ticking time bombs.

    This is the one that could ruin my life as it is located precisely upwind and it is a ticking time bomb (“tikkende tijdbom”):

  18. Go Speed Racer on Mon, 13th Mar 2017 10:10 am 

    The Collapse Comedian.

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