fukushima-iaea-report-problems.sivia Associated Press / November 19, 2013 / It’s costly, risky and dependent on technologies that have yet to be fully developed. A decades-long journey filled with unknowns lies ahead for Japan, which took a small step this week toward decommissioning its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Nobody knows exactly how much fuel melted after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems. Or where exactly the fuel went – how deep and in what form it is, somewhere at the bottom of reactor Units 1, 2 and 3.

The complexity and magnitude of decommissioning the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is more challenging than Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, say experts such as Lake Barrett, a former U.S. regulator who directed the Three Mile Island cleanup and now is an outside adviser to Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

One core melted at Three Mile Island in 1979, versus three at Fukushima, and it didn’t leak out of the containment chamber, the outer vessel that houses the reactor core. At Fukushima, multiple hydrogen explosions caused extensive damage, blowing the roofs off three reactor buildings and spewing radiation over a wide area.

Chernobyl was a worse accident in terms of radiation emitted, but authorities chose an easier solution: entombing the facility in cement.

At Fukushima, TEPCO plans a multi-step process that is expected to take 40 years: Painstakingly removing the fuel rods in storage pools, finding and extracting the melted fuel within the broken reactors, demolishing the buildings and decontaminating the soil.

“This is a much more challenging job,” Barrett said during a recent visit to Japan. “Much more complex, more difficult to do.”

Also, water must continuously be channeled into the pools and reactor cores to keep the fuel cool. Tons of contaminated water leaks out of the reactors into their basements, some of it into the ground.

Uncertainty runs high as Japan has never decommissioned a full-size commercial reactor, even one that hasn’t had an accident. TEPCO has earmarked about 1 trillion yen ($10 billion) for the decommissioning, and says it will agree to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request to set aside another 1 trillion yen to fight water leaks.


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By Broc West| 11 Comments | Featured, News


  1. Can someone please explain why the cores still need to be cooled? shouldn’t the decay heat have fallen off by now? If the cooling was stopped and the core allowed to dry up, what is likely to happen?

    • Quite right Niall; the cores don’t need cooling to stay solid, but the water helps in two ways that I can think of:
      1) it provides some radiation shielding to keep radiation levels in the buildings lower
      2) it keeps the temperature down below 100C which is again useful for site safety and avoids other materials degrading in continued high heat.

      The shielding aspect is why Tepco eventually plan to fill the containment vessels with water (once they have sealed off leaks) – access to the buildings will be much easier once this is achieved.

  2. I think that the engineers and technicians are doing a pioneering and heroic work, dangerous for them and stressful for their families. As one who had the honor of competing in the Tokyo Olympic Games, I just want to let them know that they are Real Olympians of Life and wish them health and success in this endeavor from which not only Japan, but all world will learn.
    Let the warmth of our hearts and wisdom of our minds guide us all.
    Greetings from California,
    Olga Connolly.

  3. The possibility of TELCO and its employees using workers to remove radiated rods successfully is about 1%. If an earthquake comes, or they drop, break or one even hits air we will have a catastrophic event of epic proportions. It will be equal to 10,000 Hiroshima bombs. The entire North American Hemisphere would have to be evacuated or we all die. Sign this petition:

    • Don’t sign the petition. It’s a nonsense story that cannot possibly happen – monsters-under-the-bed fiction.

      The consequences claimed simply do not follow even from events beyond the possible. The whole spent fuel pool could magically somersault onto the ground, losing all its water and crushing the fuel, and it would still have zero impact on Canada or the US.

      The fuel rods are TOO OLD, with not enough heat production to drive the material inside them offsite.

  4. I hate to be the bearer of bad news here, but 40 years to clean up the worst industrial accident in the history of the world is not acceptable. Every single day during those forty years, massive amounts of radiation will be released into our environment. Because of this accident, humanity itself stands at the edge of extinction. The first wave of cancers is now appearing, it is in the Japanese children. The Americans and Europeans will not be far behind. If you live anywhere in America, you are now breathing 1,000 times the safe limit of radioactive particles, and it is worse on the West coast. MEDIA IS NOT REALITY, no matter how much you want to pretend it is.

    • More disaster porn fiction.

      Cancer rates have not shifted one iota, radioactivity is unchanged in the US, and myth is not reality.

      • How much are they paying you to log on every day to refute any and all comments that do not support the “official story”? Having studiously followed up all articles on this site (and others), there is no doubt that you are right up there on the list of those dedicated to maintaining a complete cover-up. SHAME on YOU. You are a Troll.
        Here’s just one example of data affecting US babies; there are many, many more:http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2164974/fukushima_fallout_damaged_thyroid_glands_of_california_babies.html
        …. and tragically there will be thousands+ more in the years to come which will include the suppressed data on the affected children of Japan and “new” data from everywhere else. This is a world wide disaster. Stop your complicit lying. “You can Run (off at the mouth), but you can’t hide”….. I, for one, see you for what you really are.

        • If you want to believe a conman like Busby* and serial deceivers like Mangano**, that’s your look-out.

          You’re pretty ready with the personal attacks, I notice, based on nothing more than disagreeing with the things I say.

          Radiation in the US never budged from the range it was already in prior to Fukushima. It has made zero difference to total radiation, and the iodine levels are well below any possible harmful implication as is well known and proven from the limited geographical extent of additional thyroid cancers after Chernobyl.

          * Purveyor of useless and overpriced mineral supplements to the Japanese, among whom he built up unfounded fear at every opportunity.
          ** Author of the infamous and oft-refuted Tooth Fairy study and bandwagon-jumper extraordinaire

  5. We live in La Paz in Baja California on the Sea of Cortez, I get normal background readings from a Radex Geiger counter along the beaches and at the fish markets. As of now, we are safe here but the seasonal pelagic fish such as bill fish, tuna, etc. have not come around yet.
    If you look at the pacific contamination chart, it shows the Sea of Cortez as not experiencing as much radiation contamination due to the sea being protected from the currents and tides.
    We can only wait to see what will happen as it evolves.

    • We are considering moving to La Paz and this question of the effects from the nuclear disaster in Fukushima keeps coming up. I hope the Sea of Cortez remains the pristine marine environment for sealife that it has always been.

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