Over seven years have passed, but the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains stuck in a radioactive limbo land. The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has released brand new images from inside the heart of the nuclear power plant, taken as part of the company’s massive clean-up project.
As you can see from the series of images, it isn’t looking too healthy. Much of this damage was most likely caused by the intense fires that continue to spark up throughout the fuel pools in the plant’s worst affected areas. Equally, the initial meltdown saw a flurry of aggressive hydrogen-air explosions inside the reactors.
Atmospheric readings taken inside the plant have shown that many of the reactors are still riddled with crazily high levels of radiation. Back in February, reactor 2 even gave readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour. For perspective, a single dose of 1 sievert would be enough to leave you feeling ill with radiation sickness and at an increased risk of cancer.
Radiation levels as high as this mean large parts of the plant are still not safe for humans, so these images were taken on January 19, 2018, using a specialized camera attached to a long rod lowered into the reactor. TEPCO often rely on remote-controlled robots to take photographs and document their decommissioning program. However, even their toughest robots can only survive an exposure of up to 1,000 sieverts, so at 530 sieverts per hour, they would be destroyed in just two hours.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was the worst nuclear accident since the Chernobyl meltdown of 1986. It occurred after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake triggered a 15-meter (49-foot) tsunami off the north-east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. The flood of water prompted the plant’s backup power supply to buckle. With no electricity, those working at the plant were unable to pump water into the reactors to sufficiently cool them down. This culminated in three of its six reactors overheating, leading to nuclear meltdowns, hydrogen-air explosions, and the release of radioactive material.
Authorities and TEPCO are still grappling to resolve the damage. One of the biggest problems facing the clean-up project is the million tons of radiation-laced water lurking in the plant. All in all, the decommissioning process is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and could last for up to 40 years.