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Remember Fukushima? It's Far From Resolved

Quora UserQuora User
12 upvotes by Quora User, Lokesh Kumar, Ranjeet Sahoo, User, (more)
Remember Fukushima? That  was our Environmental Tipping Point two years ago, when a tsunami  caused a catastrophic event at a Japanese nuclear power plant, a triple  meltdown that resulted in, among other things, all kinds of noxious  debris continuing to wash up in Alaska, in Hawaii and, just the other day, in California,  Perhaps to celebrate the arrival of this dubious flotsam to the  continental 48, we discover that the Fukushima disaster is not yet done  poisoning things.
Groundwater is pouring into the plant's ravaged  reactor buildings at a rate of almost 75 gallons a minute. It becomes  highly contaminated there, before being pumped out to keep from swamping  a critical cooling system. A small army of workers has struggled to  contain the continuous flow of radioactive wastewater, relying on  hulking gray and silver storage tanks sprawling over 42 acres of parking  lots and lawns. The tanks hold the equivalent of 112 Olympic-size  pools. But even they are not enough to handle the tons of  strontium-laced water at the plant - a reflection of the scale of the  2011 disaster and, in critics' view, ad hoc decision making by the  company that runs the plant and the regulators who oversee it. In a sign  of the sheer size of the problem, the operator of the plant, Tokyo  Electric Power Company, or Tepco, plans to chop down a small forest on  its southern edge to make room for hundreds more tanks, a task that  became more urgent when underground pits built to handle the overflow  sprang leaks in recent weeks.
This was going to Spark A National Debate about the role of nuclear power in our future energy plans. Perhaps it did. But it's been a damned quiet one.
"I was just thinking about the issues more, and  watching as the industry and the regulators and the whole nuclear safety  community continues to try to figure out how to address these very,  very difficult problems," which were made more evident by the 2011  Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, he said. "Continuing to put  Band-Aid on Band-Aid is not going to fix the problem." Dr. Jaczko made  his remarks at the Carnegie International Nuclear Policy Conference in  Washington in a session about the Fukushima accident. Dr. Jaczko said  that many American reactors that had received permission from the  nuclear commission to operate for 20 years beyond their initial 40-year  licenses probably would not last that long. He also rejected as  unfeasible changes proposed by the commission that would allow reactor  owners to apply for a second 20-year extension, meaning that some  reactors would run for a total of 80 years. Dr. Jaczko cited a  well-known characteristic of nuclear reactor fuel to continue to  generate copious amounts of heat after a chain reaction is shut down.  That "decay heat" is what led to the Fukushima meltdowns. The solution,  he said, was probably smaller reactors in which the heat could not push  the temperature to the fuel's melting point.
Meanwhile, back in Japan, the problem with the nuclear power business continues to be, well, business.
A growing number of government officials and  advisers now say that by entrusting the cleanup to the company that ran  the plant before the meltdowns, Japanese leaders paved the way for a  return to the insider-dominated status quo that prevailed before the  disaster. Even many scientists who acknowledge the complexity of  cleaning up the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl fear that the  water crisis is just the latest sign that Tepco is lurching from one  problem to the next without a coherent strategy. "Tepco is clearly just  hanging on day by day, with no time to think about tomorrow, much less  next year," said Tadashi Inoue, an expert in nuclear power who served on  a committee that drew up the road map for cleaning up the plant...And  a separate committee created by the government to oversee the cleanup  is loaded with industry insiders, including from the Ministry of Trade,  in charge of promoting nuclear energy, and nuclear reactor manufacturers  like Toshiba and Hitachi. The story of how the Fukushima plant ended up  swamped with water, critics say, is a cautionary tale about the  continued dangers of leaving decisions about nuclear safety to industry  insiders.  

How anyone, even the most profit-hungry plutocrat on the planet, can  look at what is still happening at Fukushima two years later and  determine that financial concerns remain in any way relevant to the  discussion of what has to be done about a steadily spiraling catastrophe  -- I mean, chopping down a forest to build more storage tanks is Plan  A? Really? Where do they build the next hundred tanks? Downtown Osaka?  -- is beyond me. That's not important. That it might be beyond the  people tasked with keeping the rest of us safe is more worrisome.

Source:  Fukushima Far From Cleaned Up - Remember Fukushima?


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