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Radiation Level Spikes At Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster Site

The slow death-march of the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues onwards — new reports have revealed that radiation levels over eighteen times higher than any previously reported at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant were recently registered at one of the plant’s water storage tanks. The extremely high radiation levels have once again brought the Fukushima disaster to the public’s attention, but as you can no doubt guess, regardless of whether the disaster is in the news or not, the situation is not improving, and the prospect of getting the disaster under control anytime soon is looking more and more impossible.

The nuclear power plant’s operator — Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) — reported that radiation levels were so high near the bottom of the tank — measured at 1,800 millisieverts an hour — that if a human was exposed to them that they would be dead within four hours. And it should go without saying that shorter exposure times, while perhaps not fatal, would certainly have their consequences.

Image Credit: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant via Wikimedia Commons

Image Credit: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant via Wikimedia Commons

According to TEPCO (this should be taken with a grain of salt), water levels inside the tank haven’t changed, and, as far as they can tell, there is no leak. But if there’s no leak, then why is there a spot of extremely high radioactivity right outside of the tank that’s filled with highly radioactive water…

Business Green has more:

Last month Tepco said another storage tank – of the same design as the container causing concern at the weekend – had leaked 300 tonnes of radioactive water, possibly into the sea. Japan’s nuclear watchdog confirmed last week it had raised the severity of that leak from level 1, an “anomaly”, to level 3, a “serious incident”, on an eight-point scale used by the International Atomic Energy Agency for radiological releases.

Earlier, the utility belatedly confirmed reports that a toxic mixture of groundwater and water being used to cool melted fuel lying deep inside the damaged reactors was seeping into the sea at a rate of about 300 tonnes a day. Experts said those leaks, which are separate from the most recent incidents, may have started soon after the plant was struck by a powerful tsunami on 11 March 2011.

For some context on just how much radiation 1,800 millisieverts an hour is — nuclear workers in Japan are currently only allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. With such high radiation levels, how is any work expected to get done at the site? Perhaps just by sacrificing worker’s lives (as was done to contain the Chernobyl disaster)? The real issue, though, is that there really doesn’t seem to be much getting done at all, and the situation is certainly worsening. As an example, with regard to one of the containment tanks, Business Green reports: “Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month.” Quite an increase for only one month.

For a bit more information on the level of professionalism that’s accompanying this disaster, read to this:

Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.

That really inspires confidence in the company’s ability to manage a full-scale nuclear disaster doesn’t it?

As it currently stands, the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant is expected to last at least 40 years, and cost, at the very least, tens of billions of dollars.

In closing, I’ll leave you with this quote from the chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority: “We cannot fully stop contaminated water leaks right away. That’s the reality. The water is still leaking in to the sea, and we should better assess its environmental impact.”

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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.


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