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  • Yoshi Wickenhaeuser

Fukushima nuclear accident - 12 years later

It is now the 12th anniversary of the great east Japan earthquake which took place on the 11th of March 2011. This earthquake was the cause of the destruction of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the contaminated water around it. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power is operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO).

On the 11th of March, three of the six reactors were in operation as a magnitude-9 earthquake triggered a tsunami. The flood waves hit most of the buildings that house the reactors, destroying the cooling system of the operating three reactors. This led to a huge build up of hydrogen, leading to an explosion in the first and third reactor. Some hydrogen also leaked into the fourth reactor which had the same reaction. All three reactors released a massive amount of radiation.

The biggest challenge is to remove all the radioactive debris and the molten nuclear fuel from inside the reactors. Robots are being used inside the reactors with one finding some debris in the second reactor in 2019. TEPCO had made plans to remove the debris in 2021 but got postponed and it's scheduled to start in the later half of 2023.

Another problem is the contaminated water that was released. Water used to cool the debris, ground and rainwater seeping into the reactor becomes contaminated. About 100 tons of water gets contaminated per day. Even though TEPCO has been filtering out the radioactive substances, it is difficult to get rid of the hydrogen isotope tritium. Tritium is also found in natural water sources but the Japanese government decided that TEPCO must remove 1/7th of the maximum level of the tritium recommended by the World Health Organisation for drinking before it can be released back into the sea. TEPCO now has 1000 water storage tanks but they will soon be at maximum capacity.

The plan to release the water has been made and an undersea tunnel is currently under construction to release the water. However, the local fishers are worried that the water may still be contaminated and that it will kill or infect the fish.

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