On almost the 10th anniversary of the tsunami hitting Japan and the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, the country was hit by a strong earthquake that worsened the already stalemate situation at the plant.
Exactly one week ago (13.02), Japan was hit by a powerful M7.3 tremor, with the eastern coast of the Tōhoku region suffering the most damage. It was in this area that powerful tsunami waves hit in 2011, destroying the entire coastline and leading to the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant disaster and killing tens of thousands of people.
Fukushima prefectural authorities and TEPCO, the nuclear power plant’s operator, said the latest earthquake has led to further damage at the facility. The situation appears to be more hopeless than it was just a week ago. The strong seismic shock has done damage to two damaged reactors. Cooling water levels have dropped in both, meaning temperatures have risen there and radiation levels have been reported to have risen.
As a result, engineers will now have to pump much more water into the facilities to cool the ruins of the reactors and the nuclear fuel there. This is bad news. There is already less and less room on the site for tanks of contaminated water. New damage will require additional tanks. Most likely, the process of discharging contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean will be accelerated, which residents and environmentalists fear.
The Japanese government in the fall of 2020 decided to carry out such an action as early as 2022. Faced with new problems, this process could happen later this year. Specialists from TEPCO say that every 4 days a new reservoir is put up, which can hold 600 tons of water. At the moment, there are as much as 1.5 million tons of contaminated liquid at the plant site. It is already being held in 1,300 tanks.
Gradually draining the water into the ocean seems like a good idea, though highly controversial. Storing so much contaminated water and other substances in one place, and in an extremely seismic area, is dangerous. The recent earthquake has shown that the power plant is not well protected, and if there were an even bigger earthquake and new tsunamis hit, the consequences would be much more lamentable than the gradual release of water into the Pacific Ocean.
But this is not the end of bad news, the authorities sadly stated that leaks of contaminated water will seriously hamper further decommissioning work. For several months, the Japanese have been testing technologies and slowly begin to remove the solidified nuclear fuel from inside the damaged reactors. Now the process is going to get more complicated. TEPCO representatives do not hide that the decommissioning process may be prolonged for another few years.
Currently, there are about 1,000 nuclear fuel rods in all the units of the destroyed reactors. The government wants to remove a few dozen rods each year. TEPCO, the government and experts believe that it will take at least 20 more years and hundreds of billions of dollars to fully complete the cleanup of this largest nuclear disaster in history.