The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant experienced catastrophic equipment failure as a result of the Tsunami disaster that occurred on March 11th of 2011, and which never ended. The nuclear power plant accident is the largest of its kind since the well-known Chernobyl disaster of 1986.
To say that the situation has since been dealt with, or contained, in any sort of satisfactory manner, would be an optimistic overstatement. Contamination from the Fukushima disaster has been leaking into the Pacific Ocean since the melt down first occurred, with over 300 tons of toxic water (300,000 kg).
Initially, the Tokyo Electronic Power Company (TEPCO) began pumping hundreds of tons of water daily into the damaged plant in order to cool the crippled reactors. That water was being stored in roughly 1000 or so tanks. The tanks hold enough water in their entirety to fill roughly 160 Olympic-sized swimming pools. TEPCO has admitted that at least 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium may have leaked into the sea since the disaster.
The TEPCO company had also constructed a wall around the damaged area, but failure in its structure has also lead to more contaminated water leaking into the Pacific Ocean. It is believed that the remaining core of the problem is an uncontrolled leakage from the water tanks, and specialists haven’t the slightest idea of where the leak is coming from (years later).
Since the beginning, the government hadn’t been involved in the cleanup of the disaster. And it only recently began to step in, allocating hundreds of millions of dollars in fund, to aid in the containment of the problem.
But why weren’t they involved in coming up with a solution for the disaster from day one? The disaster is still spiraling out of control, with massive quantities of heavily contaminated water still pouring into the Pacific Ocean every day. This has led the Japanese government to finally seek assistance internationally, asking for help from abroad to help them solve the problem, pleading that their nation needs the knowledge and expertise of others around the world. But some say that the Japanese government hasn’t been so welcoming from international assistance,
“I am aware of three US companies with state of the art technology that have been to Japan repeatedly and have been rebuffed by the Japanese government. And I have spoken with six Japanese medical doctors who have said that they were told not to discuss radiation induced medical issues with their patients”
– Arnie Gundersen, Vermont-based nuclear engineer
But Japanese officials continue to plead for help,
“We are wide open to receive the most advanced knowledge from overseas to contain the problem,”
– Japanese Prime minister, Shinzo Abe
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has announced plans to dispatch a team to Japan in order to review the cleanup process and progress being made at the Fukushima plant. Japanese authorities have been harshly criticized for their reluctance to get involved with the management of containing the crisis, and demonstrating an attitude that is devoid of any sense of responsibility to protect the surrounding environment or people’s lives.
The most recent setback with the cleanup, where 6 workers were exposed to highly radioactive water, occurred when the a worker mistakenly (and carelessly) detached a pipe which was connected to a treatment system to remove salt from the tonnes of water being pumped to into the damaged reactors to keep them cool.
The accidental power cut stopped the pumps from working, and a backup system was immediately implemented. Weeks ago, over 400 liters of contaminated water spilled over when workers, again carelessly, overfilled a storage tank without the proper gauge to warn them of the danger.
To say that finding a functional solution to the problem has been pressing and difficult, is an understatement. The still ever-present reality is that the Fukushima situation is not contained, and specialists seem to be at a loss for ideas on how to quell the problem. With contaminated water leaking into the ocean for over 2 years, it is unacceptable that Japan has only started to get involved, or ask for help, now.