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On the 11th April 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused a huge tsunami to strike Japan’s north-east coast, killing close to 19,000 people, and severely damaging the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The subsequent failure of generators at the power plant then caused reactors 1, 3 and 4 to explode, with the radioactive fallout forcing another 160,000 people to abandon their homes
On Monday, Japan’s top nuclear regulator (created after the disaster in order to ensure nuclear safety in the country, and help oversee the clean-up at Fukushima), stated that it was concerned about the level of safety at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, after Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) reported four new radiation hotspots.
Many people have already called into question TEPCO’s ability to adequately decommission the site, with even Prime Minister Shinzo Abe suggesting that TEPCO was incapable of performing the operation on its own.
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Recently it was discovered that tanks containing contaminated water had leaked around 300 tonnes into the ocean, without TEPCO ever realising there was a leak. A follow-up investigation found that TEPCO was only sending out two workers to inspect 1,000 giant water tanks for leaks in just two hours, and that none of the tanks had water gauges to determine if the levels had fallen, and equipment used to read levels of radiation only worked up to 100 millisieverts an hour.
Using more powerful equipment, new readings were taken at the site on Saturday, and it was found that radiation levels in places were at 1,800 millisieverts an hour, far higher than TEPCO’s equipment could detect, and enough to kill anyone exposed within four hours.
TEPCO workers recording radiation levels. (Telegraph)
TEPCO has now increased the number of inspectors that will patrol the site and its water tanks to nearly 60, as well as installing other early detection systems but the higher than thought radiation levels just prove the dangers that the thousands of workers striving to make safe the power plant and prevent reactors from going back into meltdown, face each day. Workers in Japan’s nuclear sector are only allowed to receive an annual accumulative radiation of 50 millisieverts.
TEPCO’s inability to store the contaminated water has created doubts about its ability to lead the clean-up operations at Fukushima, a task that is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars and last nearly 40 years.
By. Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com