Monday, March 14, 2016

An Anniversary of a Disaster

There is always a conflict between human confidence and our tendency to become the Sorcerer's Apprentice.

On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukushima. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and according to some it would be far worse, if the Japanese government did not cover up the true severity of the damage. At least 100,000 people from the region have not yet returned to their homes. A full cleanup of the site is expected to take at least 40 years. 40 years.

"The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake," admitted Japan's prime minister regarding the time of the 2011 quake and tsunami, revealing that the country came within a "paper-thin margin" of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people.
Conservation group Greenpeace warned that "signs of mutations in trees and DNA-damaged worms beginning to appear," while "vast stocks of radiation" mean that forests cannot be decontaminated.

Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get inside to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power has made some progress, such as removing hundreds of spent fuel roads in one damaged building. But the technology needed to establish the location of the melted fuel rods in the other three reactors at the plant has not been developed. That is, we are using technology for which there are no known technological solutions for known and anticipated technological complications.
The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dangerous to humans, Tepco has been developing robots, which can swim under water and negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.
But as soon as they get close to the reactors, the radiation destroys their wiring and renders them useless.
The reactors continue to bleed radiation into the ground water and thence into the Pacific Ocean but the company has built a wall that has diminished the contamination considerably.

Another problem: Much of the work involves pumping a steady torrent of water into the wrecked and highly radiated reactors to cool them down. Afterward, the radiated water is then pumped out of the plant and stored in tanks that are proliferating around the site. What to do with the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water is one of the biggest challenges, said the site manager. He is “deeply worried” the storage tanks will leak radioactive water in the sea - as they have done several times before.
Yet the company hopes to get permission to do exactly that, to release the contaminated water into the sea.

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