A rare look at the meltdown inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant via C-Net

The cleanup will take decades in places humans can’t go. Robots will instead.


The meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was the worst nuclear disaster in history. It’s also a place where technology plays a unique — and critical — role in the cleanup efforts. 

This problem is so massive that it will likely take several decades and tens of billions of dollars to fix. Next Monday marks the eight-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the disaster. 


The facility is surprisingly colorful and busy. Thousands of workers are here as part of a clean-up that will likely take the rest of their lives, if not longer. Fukushima Daiichi, the decommissioned power plant, is like no place I’ve ever been.

Each day, thousands of workers struggle to clean up the disabled 860-acre site. Shutting it down completely is expected to take decades. It will require the development of new processes and specialized technologies. 
The effort will take so long that Tepco, Fukushima’s owner, and the government are now grooming a next generation of robotics experts to finish the job. 

“It’s of the magnitude of putting a man on the moon,” says Lake Barrett, a senior advisor to Tepco, who previously served as acting director of the Office of Civilian Radioactive Waste Management at the US Department of Energy. “Unless there’s an acceleration, I would not be surprised if it takes 60 years or so.”

Following the initial quake, two 50-foot-high waves barreled straight at Fukushima Daiichi washing over coastal seawalls and disabling the diesel generators that powered the plant’s seawater cooling systems. Temperatures inside the reactors skyrocketed to 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit.


Outdoors on the ground between Units 2 and 3, the environment is radioactive with readings as high as 332 microSieverts per hour of exposure. A dose of 1 Sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness such as nausea, vomiting and hemorrhaging. One dose of 5 Sieverts an hour would kill about half of those exposed to it within a month, while exposure to 10 Sieverts in an hour would be fatal within weeks.


Radiation in Unit 1 has been measured at 4.1 to 9.7 Sieverts per hour. And two years ago, a reading taken at the deepest level of Unit 2 was an “unimaginable” 530 Sieverts, according to The Guardian. Readings elsewhere in Unit 2 are typically closer to 70 Sieverts an hour, still making it the hottest of Daiichi’s hotspots.  


Here, we see the spent fuel pool on top of the Unit 3. Beneath it is remnants of fuel rods and melted remains of the functional reactor. The radiation level in the Unit 3 Primary Containment Vessel below is estimated at 1 Sievert per hour, or 2,000 times the level at the railing overlooking the pool, which is already so high we are only allowed to stand there for just a few minutes. 

Read more at A rare look at the meltdown inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

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