Between the recent lifting of one of the last ‘no-entry’ zones around Fukushima, along with the plan to eject the long-standing water from its nuclear plant, is the end in sight for this long period of turmoil in Fukushima’s history?
The last re-openings
The Japanese city of Fukushima and its ill-fated nuclear power plant has been in the news again this week. For a number of reasons.
Since 2011, towns across Fukushima prefecture have been ‘no-entry’ zones due to the threat of radiation in the area. Recently parts of the town of Futaba, one of the last remaining no-entry zones, has been lifted from this status.
On Monday night/Tuesday morning this week, many people gathered near the town to celebrate the moment. However, it was also a time for reflection to remember the victims of the 2011 earthquake and the subsequent tsunami that followed causing damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Around 2000 candles were lit to mark the occasion.
The reconstruction efforts over the years following the disaster has been nothing short of immense. For example, 40 million cubic metres of contaminated soil had to be removed due to the amount of contained radiation. All with the aim of helping restore the once vibrant communities.
It is the hope that this move will spur former residents who had to evacuate the area to return, and promote a rejuvenation of the town. Other parts of Futaba will still be no-entry zones but the end could be in sight for these restricted areas.
The go-ahead for Fukushima water release
Another conclusion this week revolving around the Daiichi nuclear power plant, is the plan to release long-standing water that is present in the building. The water that has been used to cool the reactors has been sitting and accumulating since the disaster with few ways of safely disposing of it.
Plans have recently been approved by the NRA (nuclear regulation authority) to release this water into the sea as early as next spring. There has been hot debate over the safety of this action but it is said that the water — which may still contain traces of tritium — will be diluted well-beyond safe standards and pumped 1 kilometre off the coast.
(Tritium is a substance used in part to produce nuclear fuel, contains beta radiation, and can be harmful if ingested.)
Residents of the local area are concerned that, even if the water is safe, there will be reputational damage. Meaning that, for example, farmers and food related businesses will be shunned out of fear of contaminated products etc.
The Japanese government has aimed to address this issue and to support a message of safety to the wider country. This will be done through numerous media channels such as TV programs and social media posts. They also aim to provide extra support for local fisheries especially in the face of this potential backlash.
If the plan goes ahead this will see the conclusion of another huge obstacle, leading to the reconstruction or deconstruction of the plant in the future — of which the decision is yet unclear.