TEPCO, the energy giant that already came dangerously close to obliterating northern Japan, is now announcing delays in its plans for removing melted fuel from Fukushima Daiichi reactor #1. We’re talking about clean-up of a meltdown that they initially denied had even happened.
Now, instead of tackling that dangerous mess in 2020, as promised, the company is pushing back the start date for the effort to 2025.
You may recall that contaminated groundwater surrounding the facility is an ongoing dilemma, with more and more of it finding its way to the Pacific Ocean every day. I wonder whether anyone has done an estimate on what additional volume of Pacific contamination will result from the delay?
Also delayed by two years are the plans for removing fuel assemblies from the spent fuel pool. Like the spent fuel pool at Vermont Yankee, that at Unit 1 of Fukushima sits high atop the reactor, leaving it vulnerable both to attack from above and structural failure from below.
The change in plans no doubt reflects equal parts financial reluctance (or inability?) and technical challenge, both of which factors seem likely to worsen the longer the situation remains unresolved.
Nice for TEPCO that they enjoy the privilege of progressing at their own pace.
Former residents of the Evacuation Zone haven’t had that luxury. As a group, they are beginning to understand that their homes may never be returned to them. Even if they are declared once again habitable, why would anyone believe this to be true after such a history of official lies and deceptions?
Filmmaker Atsushi Funahashi has documented the plight of one small town, Futaba whose residents once could be grateful to Fukushima Daiichi for the economic vitality of their town. Evacuated in the aftermath of the disaster, they waited and hoped for the “all-clear” that would send them back home, only to learn that Futaba has been slated to become a nuclear waste dump.
“I think this is almost a human rights violation,” said Atsushi Funahashi, director of “Nuclear Nation 2”…”(They) are forced to live in this temporary housing without hope for the future,”
Central to Mr. Funahashi’s film and to the tragedy unfolding in small chapters all over the Evacuation Zone, is the cultural blow that is dealt to any community so abruptly and irreversibly displaced from its foundations.
In a country where identity and even purpose are engraved so deeply with tradition and a sense of place, the impact of this nuclear diaspora cannot be underestimated. 150,000 people were displaced by the disaster.
Official efforts at providing emergency housing are now subject to annual review, adding further uncertainty to already disrupted lives.
Some evacuees are tempted with “incentives” offered by TEPCO to return to their former homes. Even though they doubt the current safety of the area, many will have little choice but to accept the incentives and return to their former homes.
The alternative is to risk losing even temporary shelter,
should the contracts for emergency housing not be renewed.
Even if the political infrastructure can survive all of the environmental challenges that lie ahead, it is difficult to believe that the events that occurred at Fukushima in 2011, due to human mismanagement, have not already permanently altered the social fabric of one of the great civilizations of our era.