Environment

A decade later, most of Fukushima remains contaminated

This is even after $28 billion has been spent to decontaminate and 30 million workers have cleared 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste till March 2019

 
By Adithyan PC
Published: Thursday 11 March 2021

A decade after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant nuclear disaster, most of the accident site is still contaminated, according to reports.

On March 11, 2011 at 14:46 PM, Japan was rocked by the fourth most powerful earthquake ever recorded on earth. One hour later, a giant tsunami with waves over 14 metres hit the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. The result was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

A catastrophic triple reactor meltdown followed, leading to radioactive contamination of thousands of square kilometres in and around the Fukushima Prefecture. Japan evacuated 164,000 people residing in a radius of 40 km of the destroyed nuclear facility.

In 2012, the government started a decontamination programme in Fukushima and created a Special Decontamination Area (SDA). But even after 10 years, Japan has not been able to decontaminate the site.

The aim was to establish a long-term decontamination target level of 0.23 microsieverts per hour (0.23 µSv/h). But according to various reports, the radiation levels around the nuclear plant are much higher than what the human body can tolerate.

This is even after $28 billion has been spent to decontaminate and 30 million workers have cleared 17 million tonnes of nuclear waste till March 2019. Japan claims that most of the SDA has been decontaminated and it is safe for residents to return.

But in reality, only 15 per cent of the SDA is decontaminated. Because 70 per cent of the contaminated area is forested. What is worse is that radioactivity has percolated through the top soil and has reached many layers deep in these forests.

This means the radioactivity can enter through the roots of trees and contaminate the entire forest. These forests can start a process of recontamination even after the clean-up is over.    

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