Fukushima Reactor has Record Radiation Levels
Posted on Feb. 9, 2017, 6 a.m. in Environment
The site's radiation is at the highest level since the 2011 meltdown. Industry experts have called the recent rating "unimaginable".
About six years ago the Fukushima nuclear reactor endured a triple meltdown. Yet the mainstream media rarely reports any updates regarding the status of this highly sensitive site and the resulting radiation. The story re-entered the mainstream media this past week when it was announced that the site's radiation had reached its highest level since the original meltdown in 2011.
The sky-high radiation levels have placed the pressure squarely on the facility's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, to finally decommission the site for good. However, such a decommission process will likely take upwards of half a decade to complete. Japanese government officials have stated the cost of decommissioning the site and decontaminating the surrounding space would be 21.5tn yen. This is twice the amount originally estimated back in 2013.
High Atmospheric Ratings are Cause for Concern
Tokyo Electric Power has reported atmospheric readings upwards of 530 sieverts per hour. This astonishing level of radiation was measured in reactor number two. It is one of three reactors that endured a meltdown when the facility was rocked by a gigantic tsunami that hit the northeast portion of Japan in the spring of 2011. The egregiously high radiation readings will put thousands of workers in harm's way and possibly a portion of Japan's island population. There is mounting pressure on Tokyo Electric Power to shut down the plant.
Industry experts have called the recent rating “unimaginable”. It is considerably higher than the previous high of 73 sieverts per hour in the same section of the reactor. All it takes is a single dose of one sievert to induce radiation sickness along with debilitating nausea. A mere five sieverts would take one month's time to end the lives of those exposed to it. A dose of 10 sieverts can kill in a couple of weeks.
A Hole of Note
Tokyo Electric Power also noted an image analysis displayed a hole within the metal grating below the previously referenced rector's pressure vessel. The hole measures one meter wide. It was likely created as a result of melted nuclear fuel that seeped into the vessel following the tsunamis disabling of the site's backup cooling system. Though it is known that this hole exists, company spokesmen are insistent that further investigation is necessary to determine the reactor's internal condition.
The site's egregiously high radiation levels will make it quite difficult to inspect and dismantle the plant in a safe manner. Tokyo Electric Power plans to use a remote-controlled robot to inspect the reactor's containment vessel. It is built to endure exposure upwards of 1,000 sieverts. This design empowers the robot to gather data for two hours before it is rendered useless. The good news is that radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor.
The Issue of Melted Fuel
The site of melted fuel in the three most heavily damaged reactors has not been identified. The condition of this fuel is also a mystery. Neither Tokyo Electric Power or its partners are sure how to remove this fuel. It might not even be possible to do so in a safe manner. It is assumed that substantial amounts of melted fuel have piled up along the bottom of the compromised reactors' containment vessels. However, the exorbitantly high radiation levels have made it impossible to determine what sort of condition the fuel deposits are in.
It is worth noting that the Tokyo Electric Power provided photos of dark formations positioned below reactor number two. Company representatives believe these lumps are actually melted-down uranium fuel rods. This is the first such discovery following the Fukushima tsunami disaster.