Can Japan’s ‘Recovery Olympics’ heal Fukushima’s nuclear scars? via NBC News

A huge tsunami slammed through the walls of Fukushima’s power plant. Three nuclear reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air.

By Keir Simmons, Yuka Tachibana and Henry Austin


Officials in Japan told NBC News they were hopeful that the games, which open on July 24 and have been dubbed the country’s “Recovery Olympics,” would convince skeptics that the answer is yes.

“It’s an opportunity for Japan to change people’s perception, people’s view of Fukushima,” said Naoto Hisajima, the director general of disarmament, nonproliferation and science for Japan’s Foreign Ministry. “The Olympic torch will pass through Fukushima, and there’re going to be Olympic events in Fukushima.”


Corkhill’s team is helping plant operators come up with a plan to dispose of the highly radioactive melted cores — the parts of the power plant’s nuclear reactors that contained fuel components, like uranium and plutonium, that generated the heat to produce the power.

They are so toxic that only remotely controlled robots can get to them, but the robots are unable to remove them because “the intense radiation tends to fry their circuits,” she said.

Corkhill said that it will take decades to completely shut down the plant and that the operators still don’t know how to reach the cores.

Space to store the 1 million tons of water — equal to 400 Olympic-size swimming pools — that must be pumped through the reactor to keep the fuel cool is also running out, she warned.

While the water has been treated to remove most of the most dangerous radioactive components, traces of tritium remain.


Sadamaru Okano, a Buddhist monk who runs Seirinji Temple in the Fukushima town of Matsukawa, said that immediately after the accident there was a great deal of conflicting data from the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co.

People were “confused,” he said.

“It’s safe, then it’s unsafe, and we never ever knew the numbers,” he added.

Sean Bonner and Azby Brown agreed. The pair run the environmental organization Safecast, which gives Geiger counters to Fukushima residents, as well as other people across Japan, to take radiation readings. It then collates the data and publishes them live on their website, which is an open source for radiation information.


Radiation hotspots have been found in J-Village, the starting point of the Olympic torch relay, according to Greenpeace.

After conducting its own tests, Greenpeace said radioactive contamination still remained in the parking lot and the nearby forests at the Olympic sports complex in Fukushima Prefecture.

Japan’s Environment Ministry said it had subsequently implemented “radiation reduction measures.”

“It was confirmed that the air dose rate on the spot decreased,” it said on its website.


Keir Simmons and Yuka Tachibana reported from Futaba, Japan, and Henry Austin from London.

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