It’s been eight years since the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. The resulting damage led to hydrogen explosions and a partial meltdown, releasing radiation into the surrounding area. After workers’ brave efforts stabilized the situation, they began to focus on long-term cleanup. The cleanup recently reached a major milestone when workers began removing the damaged and highly radioactive control rods for disposal. But how do you really clean up a nuclear accident? The difficulty of the task depends on the severity of the accident. According to Richard Stone in Science, when it came to Chernobyl, the worst nuclear accident in history, containing the damage was paramount. The Chernobyl explosion led to a massive fire, spreading a radioactive plume across Europe. Extinguishing the fire was the immediate priority. Workers ran onto a fiery roof to shovel burning radioactive material down into the ruined core, while aircraft dumped clay and dirt on the fire. Finally, a tunnel bored into the burning reactor building extinguished the fire with nitrogen. There was no thought of cleanup: the entire structure was buried under a massive concrete “sarcophagus” and then the entire region was permanently evacuated. A new structure was recently erected over the sarcophagus so the sarcophagus, itself radioactive, could be safely disposed of.
JStor Daily 12th May 2019 read more »