Tokyo Electric Power, Fukushima, Roger discussed on The Takeaway
Eight years ago. Japan was devastated by the most powerful earthquake to hit the country in more than one hundred years. It created a forty three foot tall Saddam me that killed nearly sixteen thousand people and also knocked out the power at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. It was the biggest nuclear meltdown since tra- noble in one thousand nine hundred eighty six eight years later, people are slowly trickling back into the region. But the cleanup could take another forty years to complete Roger Chan the executive editor of news, and he traveled to Fukushima in November to cover the cleanup efforts. Roger, thanks for joining us base. Rodney. So you wrote about the reminders of the disaster everywhere. I was a kid during Chernobyl. I'm we're still talking about it and insist so what did you see in Fukushima little things and big things. I mean driving through the areas near the towns that are near Christina Ricci. You could see they're still ghost towns. A lot of houses are still a barricaded with Mel gates. We actually hopped. Some of those gates we walked into some of the the stores and shops. They're devastated by this anomaly and the earthquake and really you could see the imprint of what things look like eight years ago. Close on some mannequins in the retail stores, but they're all Bandon, and it's crazy just nearby. I think one of the more stark reminders of the disaster bags radiator dirt hundreds of bags piled up everywhere that they can't really get rid of at this point. We're going to get back to that in a second. So far, we undersea said, you're describing a ghost town, basically. But there are some people who are back. Absolutely the towns further further away. I'd say about fifteen or twenty minute drive. Outside. I h e you could definitely see life trickling back in the the police station was opened the local supermarket was was open. I did see people there. But it's covered spurts, and it's still very industrial. The the main highway going to Daiichi largely it's construction vehicles trucks, really for the cleanup effort there aren't alive signs of normal everyday life. You mentioned the dirt and the bags that you were seeing the radiation. That's still there is it even safe to be there right now. It's debatable. I'd say Japan and Tokyo Electric Power company or TEPCO would argue that the surrounding area is relatively safe at this point. But there are those stark reminders and interestingly when you're driving down the highway, you'll see signs that show the radiation level every several hundred meters or so to be fair the radiation level there is lower than it could be I guess it's still higher than it is in Tokyo. But it is I guess within sort of a safe safe zone. Just interesting like even the daily weather report on the local TV station. They always include the radiation level in the area speaking with Roger Chang about cleanup efforts in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Eight years later, Roger you mentioned TEPCO who's the company that owns and operates the plant that failed. They're saying that the cleanup despite all these, you know, small changes we're seeing now could take up to forty years. That's correct. It's been very slow going. It's been eight years and really only now we literally start scratching the surface of the problem. Just back in February. They finally sent a robot into one of the reactors Judah to which is actually the most radioactive of the three reactors and for the first time was actually able to to pick up and hold a pebble within the core of the reactor. And that's that. How far they've gone in years after a lot of failure. They've finally got Moi's robots in there and actually touched the pebble. But that's it. And that that sort of gives you a sense of the magnitude of problems like how much more that they actually need to get through to clean up these reactors. What about prevention as TEPCO laid out any plans for that? So that there is not another disaster like this. Well, the not so much, but only because they've shut down all of their power plants. Fact, I think all but eleven nuclear power plants are are shut down and putting all the cO plants. There's not even. Discussion to turtles things back on an so TEPCO isn't really focused on prevention at this point, they're focused on. Daichi which is a massive massive problem and one of the most important issues, it appears is the one of contaminated water what's happening there and how easily can they contain it? So that the core problems. I think the dirt is a very visual graphic reminder. But what you don't really see is the the amount talks water that needs to be cleaned up and collected. And they can't do anything with this water. They actually just have to store it. And so for the last eight years they've been storing a huge amount one point one million tonnes of contaminated water sealed up in nine hundred tanks on the facility. It's it's mind boggling, and it keeps looking so imagine a leaky bucket that you constantly have to keep clicking the water and storing it, and so they estimate they have enough room to hold about two hundred seventy thousand tons of water which would take them through sometime next year. And then after that they run out of space. You said it keeps leaking that that's concerning today that it's leaking back into the environment. Yes. This is the issue that there are leaks. One some of the water needs to be Hughley cleaned out because it's the water use a cool the fuel rods. But there are leaks at the bottom of these reactors what they've done basically, create this ice wall. And I kind of profiled in one of my pieces they've they've kind of created ice wall around the reactors too hard in the ground around it, basically prevent the toxic water from leaking out and the groundwater that slowing from the mountains in the west from going in. So they've tried to reduce the amount of water the toxic water being generated. But it's still a big problem. How do you even contain something like water? I mean, obviously, we're talking about how. But like really how are they clear that they've gotten all of the contaminated water is there potential for there to be more, given these leaks and the dirt that we just discussed. Yeah. I mean, they I think they've done a pretty good job of of collecting the water inside again. Like they've they've created multiple barriers to prevent the water from going to see I'm sure there's some leakage, but they've actually done a lot to at least prevent the water from leaking out and they've got facilities on the grounds. That actually are designed to treat them a water, and they'd actually managed to get about they've gotten sixty two out of the sixty three contaminant elements out of the water. But the last one tritium is because it's genetically bonded is really really difficult. So the water is still technically deemed.