After a series of alarming reports about the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Japan, over the past few days, many people have been wondering what is actually going on there. A number of news portals reported on alarming levels of radiation from the nuclear power plant:
- Gizmondo – “levels of radiation soar …”
- The Guardian – “at the highest level, as the plant survived the triple crisis almost six years ago …”
- Japanese Times – “glowing reading of radiation …”
All reports were initiated by an announcement made by Tokyo Electric Power Co, or TEPCO, the company that manages the plant and is responsible for the cleaning process. A few days ago, the company announced that the radiation levels in the Fukushima 2 reactor were measured at 530 sieverts per hour. The Fukushima 2 reactor was one of three reactors that were melted in March 2011, when a tsunami hit the plant. For comparison, the reactor power at that time was 73 Sievert, and irradiation of 4 Sievert can kill a person.
The 2011 tsunami was caused by an earthquake of magnitude 9.0, which occurred on the north-east coast of Japan. The earthquake caused a tsunami on March 11, 2011, which killed 18,500 people and destroyed the backup power in Fukushima, which led to the destruction of three of its six reactors. This natural disaster also forced the evacuation of about 160,000 people, who almost did not have a chance to return.
Although the radiation level at Fukushima does not grow at a rapid pace, TEPCO has detected an area with a higher radiation level than previously measured. The company used a telescopic arm 10.5 meters long (34.4 feet) in order to examine the zone inside the reactor 2, called the pedestal.
A camera was attached to the arm, on which was a square hole measuring 1 meter (3.3 feet) on each side. Experts believe that this hole was caused by molten fuel elements from a pressure vessel.
In its report, TEPCO stated: “Nuclear fuel in the Primary Container (PCV) was exposed to air and melted from the impact of the Great Earthquake in March 2011. As a result of the analysis of the accident it was discovered that Part of the molten nuclear fuel may have fallen [so] inside the pedestal. ”
Although they found higher levels of radiation inside the plant, the levels around it are still falling, which means that the environment is not exposed to this radiation.
According to Jerry Tom, a radiation expert from Imperial College in London: “In Japan, there are many people who wandered through radiation monitors, and it would be very easy to see if there is an increase in radiation coming from the plant.”
TEPCO studied the degradation of images caused by radiation to calculate the radiation figure inside itself, which turned out to be equal to 530 sievers with an error of plus or minus 30%, in spite of the fact that even the lower figure is still extremely high,
According to Dr. Ben Britton, director of the Master of Advanced Nuclear Engineering at Imperial College in London, “The fact that high cost is measured in an area that was not previously measured is extremely exciting and important. Measurements in new places mean that we can identify hot spots and understand the nature of radioactive materials inside the reactor complex and better inform us of suitable strategies for long-term decommissioning and cleaning. ”
Now the company is developing a route for the robot, which will be sent to the reactor. Scorpio – a robot the size of a stick measuring 70 centimeters (28 inches) will be sent to areas that are unsafe for people.
Nevertheless, the robot can survive only when exposed to 1000 sieverts, and it will be destroyed in just two hours at 530 sievert per hour. This further complicated the work of radiation experts in the company.
As reported by Safecast: “It is assumed that much more molten fuel debris was colonized under the pedestal grid on the concrete base of the reactor. There was a hope that Scorpio could present this. It’s no surprise that TEPCO is reviewing its plans again based on the latest results. ”
This is very important, because in order to write off Fukushima, the engineers first need to locate the molten fuel, and this involves testing three reactors. It is expected that the whole process will be completed by 2021.
After determining the location of the fuel, the complete elimination of Fukushima will take 4 decades. The total cost of the project is estimated at 21.5 trillion yen (188 billion dollars), which is twice as much as in 2013.
Fukushima’s recent news also includes the story of a 42-year-old man who worked as a welder at the plant, and is now suing TEPCO for leukemia, which he has developed since. According to BBC News, he is “the first person whom labor authorities recognize as a disease associated with cleaning up the plant.”
Even if radiation levels do not soar, Fukushima is a threat in itself. Even the management company -TEPCO recently announced that it will clean up Fukushima. Extremely expensive and time-consuming process.