Five years after the Tōhoku tsunami triggered the second-worst nuclear accident in history, the cleanup team at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station has yet to stem the buildup of contaminated water at the site or determine the precise location of much of the reactor fuel.
The cleanup team is still struggling to halt the buildup of contaminated water, and the techniques and equipment needed to locate, extract, and dispose of the melted fuel have yet to be developed. Given these challenges, many experts are convinced that the decommissioning process will take far longer than the official 40-year timetable-perhaps as long as a century.
One of the first things a visitor will notice upon entering the site is row upon row of massive cylindrical water tanks. Built to store some 800,000 tons of radioactive water, these 1,100 or so tanks bear witness to the epic battle that has absorbed the energies of the cleanup team for the past five years, as it struggled to contain and decontaminate radioactive water and halt its accumulation.
Rainwater and groundwater have continued to pour into the damaged basements of Units 1-4, where it mixes with the highly radioactive cooling water already inside the buildings. To stem the buildup of this contaminated water and prevent it from flowing into the ocean, TEPCO has devised a complicated patchwork of strategies aimed at solving the problem by 2020.
The pillars of TEPCO's water management efforts to date are two systems for channeling groundwater away from the contaminated basements and releasing it into the ocean relatively free of radioactive contaminants. One, the groundwater bypass system, collects water in wells dug between the reactor buildings and the hills to the west. The water is pumped up from the wells, tested, and eventually released into the ocean. The other, called the subdrain system, uses wells dug around the perimeter of the reactor buildings. So far, TEPCO has discharged some 230,000 tons of water into the ocean using these two methods combined. Even so, groundwater continues to pour into the buildings' basements at the rate of about 150 tons a day.
About 1,600 people were taking shelter in Tottori Prefecture as of Saturday night amid a string of aftershocks following the previous day's 6.6-magnitude earthquake that hit the western Japan prefecture and nearby areas. (Jiji)
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is looking to offer 5 billion yen ($48.2 million) in loans when he meets with Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte next week, bilateral diplomatic sources said Saturday. (Kyodo)
Subway operator Tokyo Metro was forced to change the design of one of its official "Tetsudou Musume" mascots last week after an outcry over what some deemed as inappropriate elements, including a see-through skirt. (tokyoreporter.com)
Japanese alpinist Junko Tabei, the first woman in the world to scale the peak of Mt. Everest, died of peritoneal cancer at a hospital in Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture, on Thursday. She was 77. (the-japan-news.com)
Two statues of young girls symbolizing the so-called comfort women who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese troops before and during World War II were unveiled in Shanghai in a ceremony held on Saturday. (Japan Times)
The Chiron 401 planetarium system at the Yokkaichi Municipal Museum in Mie Prefecture, central Japan, has been recognized by Guinness World Records as being capable of projecting the largest number of stars in the world, the museum said Saturday. (Jiji)
In terms of response to rape victims, Japanese authorities are a century behind their U.S. and European counterparts, Catherine Jane Fisher, who was raped by a U.S. serviceman in Japan in 2002, said in a lecture on Saturday. (Jiji)
Following the enactment of the security-related laws that authorize Self-Defense Force members to carry out new duties such as rescue missions in South Sudan, the Defense Ministry plans to record images of the members' activities as they conduct the new missions, according to sources. (the-japan-news.com)