Two years after the second worst nuclear disaster in the world, scientists are still no closer to understanding the exact conditions of the reactor cores inside the Fukushima nuclear plant. That is because the radiation levels are still too high for anyone to enter the three reactor buildings that had a meltdown on March 11, 2011, in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) insists that they have already done a lot to bring the situation under control. They claim that the radiation levels are steadily declining and that they are building a crane to remove the spent fuel rods from the reactor No. 4 unit. That unit was spared from the meltdown two years ago, only because it was having an inspection at the time and the 1,533 fuel rods were in a spent fuel pool. Two years later, 3,000 workers go to the plant everyday and that is the only unit they can work on.
Nuclear experts have warned that there is a possibility of an even greater disaster if another major earthquake hits the damaged building that houses the fuel pool on its third floor. Even though remedial and reinforcement of the building is already being done, if the fuel rods are exposed to the air, it will cause untold damage to northeast Japan. To avoid another catastrophe, a huge tower is being constructed beside the building. It will house a crane that will lift the rods into casks then lower them to the ground where they can be then transported to a secure site. Takeshi Takahashi, the plant head says this tower will be ready by November this year.
Other than what’s being done at the reactor No. 4, everything else in the plant remains the same. No one has been able to go inside any of the three reactor buildings since that fateful day. They have resorted to using remote-controlled vehicles to get inside the rubble and assess what can be done. Workers wearing protective all-body suits, three layers of gloves, two layers of socks, a skull cap and a full face mask with respirators go about their job around the plant, constantly being reminded that radiation has no color and smell and that they are always in danger so they have to be alert. Beyond the 18-mile exclusion zone lie abandoned towns, a ghost of the once-thriving area it once was.
[ via The Telegraph ]