Not all aspects of the recovery are proceeding apace. The Japanese government has said in the past that everything is “under control,” but measurements from the ocean show that the reactors are still leaking radiation, via groundwater and rainwaters that flow through the reactor site. These small leaks – which pose little risk to swimmers or surfers – aren’t what keep me up at night. Instead, 10 years after this devastating event, I and other experts are worried about the safety risks posed by the 1,000 tanks that together contain more than 1 million tons of radioactive waters, sitting at the power plant only steps from the shoreline. This water grows in volume by roughly 100 tons each day, as groundwater still enters the buildings and mixes with the contaminated water used for cooling the damaged reactors. The future of these tanks needs to be decided. We have always known the tanks contain high levels of tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen that is hard to remove from water during remediation efforts, because water itself contains hydrogen as well. Luckily, at low doses, tritium causes less damage to living cells than many other forms of radioactivity. But in 2018, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operated and is cleaning up the power plant site, announced for the first time that the tanks also contain concerning levels of other, more harmful radioactive materials such as cobalt-60 and strontium-90, which are much more likely to end up on the seafloor or be taken up by sea life.
Science: The Wire 13th March 2021 read more »
On March 11th 2011, Japan’s most powerful earthquake on record triggered a tsunami, which then caused a meltdown at a nuclear power plant. It wiped entire towns off the map and forced Fukushima’s residents from their homes as radiation leaked from the plant. The government estimates the disaster could cost nearly $200bn, and the clean-up may take until 2051. Today the prefecture of Fukushima is still dealing with the aftermath of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. What happened that day, and what was it like for the people who lived through it? he BBC’s Tui McLean explains how the triple disaster unfolded.
BBC 13th March 2021 read more »