Fukushima Reactor Reaches Highest Radiation Levels Since 2011
On 03 February, a very alarming news came to light: the Daiichi nuclear reactor located in Fukushima, Japan, reached its highest radiation level since it was severely damaged by the earthquake that hit the Asian country in 2011.
According to an article published by Justin McCurry in prestigious British online newspaper The Guardian, “atmospheric readings as high as 530 sieverts an hour had been recorded inside the containment vessel of reactor No 2, one of three reactors that experienced a meltdown when the plant was crippled by a huge tsunami that struck the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011”.
The article also states that these levels were “described by some experts as ’unimaginable’”, since it is “far higher than the previous record of 73 sieverts an hour in that part of the reactor”.
The situation is extremely worrying, due to the fact that small amounts of radiation can cause severe damage to human health. “A single dose of one sievert is enough to cause radiation sickness and nausea; 5 sieverts would kill half those exposed to it within a month, and a single dose of 10 sieverts would prove fatal within weeks”, states the news.
These high radiation levels could have been caused by a one-metre-wide hole in the reactor’s pressure vessel. Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, one of Tepco’s spokesmen, said: “It may have been caused by nuclear fuel that would have melted and made a hole in the vessel, but it is only a hypothesis at this stage”.
“We believe the captured images offer very useful information, but we still need to investigate given that it is very difficult to assume the actual condition inside”, Mr Yamagishi continued.
The unusual radiation levels would difficult the dismantling of the plant. However, “a remote-controlled robot that Tepco intends to send into the No 2 reactor’s containment vessel is designed to withstand exposure to a total of 1,000 sieverts”, wrote Mr McCurry, but it would only survive “for less than two hours before malfunctioning”.
In December 2016, the Japanese government declared that the costs of cleaning the area are expected to rise to 21.5 trillion yens, which is almost two times the estimate in 2013.