Over six years have passed since Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami of March 2011. Some things have changed and some things are exactly the same. Most victims of this disaster have either moved on to a new life outside the affected areas or have become accustomed to daily life in their temporary housing.
An even bigger problem are the efforts to keep the destruction at the Daichi Nuclear Power Plant as stable as possible for near eternity. This involves dealing with melting fuel rods that need to be transferred to more stable facilities, the continual storage of contaminated water, the leaking problems these containers are experiencing and the storage or disposal of radioactive soil, lumber, and materials.
The Japanese government is eager to show the world that Fukushima and Japan is safe especially leading up to the 2020 Olympics. Recently, another town has opened up and deemed safe for it’s residents to return. I have some opportunities to make a couple of visits to these area, to see first hand what is happening.
My first visit was intended for research for a portion of A Trashy Book, that I am working on. I wanted to see first hand the fields and fields of piles and piles of contaminated waste that I had heard about and was able to track down on google earth. We found them in more places then we imagined.
According to a recent New York Times article,
Japan’s Ministry of the Environment estimates that it has bagged 3.5 billion gallons of soil, and plans to collect much more. It will eventually incinerate some of the soil, but that will only reduce the volume of the radioactive waste, not eliminate it.
Contaminated trash is just one part of the massive challenge of nuclear power production. Some people may think that as long as the problem is NIMBY (Not In My BackYard) then we need not be concerned. However, what happens in Fukushima can not stay in Fukushima. It is a harbinger for any country that uses nuclear power in facilities that have long passed their safety age. Of the 60 Nuclear reactors in Japan, all but two have shut down or are suspended until stricter safety tests can be passed, if at all. There are 100 commercial reactors in the US, most of them older than the Japanese counterparts.
More to follow on how Japan deals with their waste…