The Fukushima nuclear reactor is seeing its highest levels of radiation since the meltdown that occurred in 2011. The rising levels of radiation have urged the Japanese government to place pressure on TEPCO to decommission the power plant and clean up the environmental hazard before it is too late.
Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) reports that the radiation levels within the nuclear reactor are giving off readings as high as 530 sieverts per hour in reactor number 2. To apply a comparison to the danger of the high levels of radiation, a single sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness, including nausea. 5 sieverts is enough to kill anyone exposed within a month’s time. a dose of 10 sieverts would kill a person in only a few weeks, according to the Guardian.
Nuclear experts claim that the reported 530 sieverts by Tepco is unimaginable. The previously reported high readings were only 73 sieverts an hour.
TEPCO agrees that decommissioning efforts should begin on nuclear reactor number 2. However, the time line to complete such a task is estimated at approximately 40 years.
— MauiBound (@KaanapaliBound) February 5, 2017
Fukushima has been a cause of concern since the tsunami hit Japan in 2011, but TEPCO did not expect the high radiation levels to be present six years later. However, an image analysis may have revealed the cause of the high radiation levels.
According to TEPCO, a metal grating below the reactor’s pressure vessel has a hole in it, about one meter in size. The hole is believed to have been caused by nuclear fuel that melted and then ate through the metal after the tsunami hit the Fukushima Daichii nuclear reactors. This most likely took place after the backup cooling systems were knocked out.
“It may have been caused by nuclear fuel that would have melted and made a hole in the vessel, but it is only a hypothesis at this stage. We believe the captured images offer very useful information, but we still need to investigate given that it is very difficult to assume the actual condition inside.”
Despite discovering the cause of the high levels of radiation, fixing the issue is a big problem. A robot that was sent in to investigate had a rating that allowed exposure of about 1,000 sieverts. However, that rating means the robot would malfunction after only two hours of exposure. Sending a human in to actually fix the problem would equate to a suicide mission.
Also, the discovery of the hole does not reveal where the melted fuel came from or what condition it is currently in. So, fixing the hole does not solve potential problems in the future.
TEPCO claims that there is good news to report; the radiation is not leaking outside of the reactor, yet.
Forbes reported that the high levels if radiation at the Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant were taken near the entrance of the hole. This brings hope that the nuclear fuel could be contained to that one spot, meaning that the high levels of radiation are currently contained.
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) February 5, 2017
Fukushima has become an example of the best and worst case examples that may happen during a nuclear power plant disaster. As seen by Chernobyl, a catastrophic disaster can leave an entire landscape uninhabitable. A similar situation could have occurred at Fukushima. However, Japan was able to act quickly and create a containment of the nuclear radiation. Although there was threat to the West Coast of the United States in 2011 and 2012, as well as other countries in the radiation’s path, most of that has been considered a non-threat at this point.
Although the Fukushima Daichii nuclear power plant still poses a threat to the environment and life in Japan, the knowledge and concern by TEPCO, the Japanese government, and nations around the world, allow for a sigh of relief that all issues will be handled appropriately from this point forward.
[Featured Image by Vladimir Mulder/Shutterstock]