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.
U.S. President Barack Obama reaffirmed his commitment Friday to seeking a world free of nuclear weapons during his historic visit to Hiroshima, which was devastated by a U.S. atomic bomb in the final stage of World War II in 1945. (Kyodo)
Firefighters battled an apparent engine fire Friday on a Korean Air jet on the tarmac at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. All the passengers and crew were evacuated unharmed, Japanese media reported. (Japan Today)