Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Lethal Levels of Radiation Found in Damaged Fukushima Reactor, Impacting its Shutdown

Climate
Lethal Levels of Radiation Found in Damaged Fukushima Reactor, Impacting its Shutdown
The Tokyo Electric Power Company's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is seen from Futaba Town, Fukushima prefecture on March 11, 2020. STR / JIJI PRESS / AFP/ Getty Images

By Brett Wilkins

In what Japanese regulators on Wednesday called an "extremely serious" development, lethal levels of radiation have been recorded inside the damaged reactor building at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, threatening the shutdown and decommissioning of the site of the second-worst peacetime nuclear disaster in history.


According to The Asahi Shimbun, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) reported that massive amounts of radioactive materials have been found around shield plugs of the containment vessels in the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

NRA officials estimated radiation levels at 10 sieverts per hour—enough to kill a worker who spends just one hour there.

Decommission of the reactor requires workers to remove the shield plugs, which block radiation from the reactor core during normal plant operation. This discovery has forced officials to reconsider their shutdown plans.

NRA chair Toyoshi Fuketa said that removing the highly irradiated shield plugs made safe retrieval of nuclear fuel debris—an already dangerously daunting task—all the more difficult.

"It appears that nuclear debris lies at an elevated place," Fuketa said at a news conference earlier this month. "This will have a huge impact on the whole process of decommissioning work."

The latest alarming find is the result of an investigation that resumed in September after a five-year pause in which the NRA took new measurements of radiation levels around the shield plugs at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, announced December 24 that nuclear fuel debris removal would be postponed until 2022 or later due to the coronavirus pandemic.

As Common Dreams reported in October, Greenpeace and other environmental and anti-nuclear advocates expressed shock and outrage after the Japanese government announced a plan to release stored water from the ill-fated plant into the Pacific Ocean. Greenpeace subsequently released a report claiming that radioactive carbon-14 released into the ocean "has the potential to damage human DNA."

The Fukushima Daiichi disaster—the result of a 2011 earthquake and tsunami that killed more than 15,000 people in northeastern Japan—was the worst nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in the former Soviet Union, and the worst in Japan since the United States waged a nuclear war against the country in 1945 that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Reposted with permission from Common Dreams.

Lakota spiritual leader Chief Arvol Looking Horse attends a demonstration against the proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico in front of the White House in Washington, DC, on January 28, 2015. Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty Images

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to cancel the controversial Keystone XL pipeline on the first day of his administration, a document reported by CBC on Sunday suggests.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and German ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst stand at the Orion spacecraft during a visit at the training unit of the Columbus space laboratory at the European Astronaut training centre of the European Space Agency ESA in Cologne, Germany on May 18, 2016. Ina Fassbender / Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

By Monir Ghaedi

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to keep most of Europe on pause, the EU aims for a breakthrough in its space program. The continent is seeking more than just a self-sufficient space industry competitive with China and the U.S.; the industry must also fit into the European Green Deal.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A new species of bat has been identified in West Africa. MYOTIS NIMBAENSIS / BAT CONSERVATION INTERNATIONAL

In 2018, a team of researchers went to West Africa's Nimba Mountains in search of one critically endangered species of bat. Along the way, they ended up discovering another.

Read More Show Less
Seabirds often follow fishing vessels to find easy meals. Alexander Petrov / TASS via Getty Images

By Jim Palardy

As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.

Read More Show Less
A damaged home and flooding are seen in Creole, Louisiana, following Hurricane Laura's landfall on August 27, 2020. Joe Raedle / Getty Images

By Elliott Negin

What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.

Read More Show Less