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Japan’s Olympics – recovery for Fukushima? rescue for the nuclear industry?

Can Japan’s ‘Recovery Olympics’ heal  Fukushima’s nuclear scars?fFukushima’s power plant. Three nuclear reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air. Jan. 14, 2020,  By Keir Simmons, Yuka Tachibana and Henry Austin, FUTABA, Japan — Nine years after “Fukushima” became synonymous with nuclear disaster, the area will help kick off the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo by hosting the opening ceremony’s torch relay near its devastated power plant.

But this symbol of rebirth — part of a planned renaissance for a region ravaged by the strongest earthquake in Japan’s history and deadly tsunami that engulfed entire communities — raises questions of whether nearly a decade is enough time to recover and make the area safe.

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.”

………  Three nuclear reactors melted down, spewing radioactive particles into the air.

Authorities acted quickly, scrubbing buildings and removing about 4 inches of soil and vegetation from the surrounding area. That lowered radioactivity to levels that are safe for people to be in contact with, according to Dr. Claire Corkhill of the U.K.’s University of Sheffield.

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.

Japanese authorities have suggested releasing the water slowly into the sea over a number of years, which Corkhill said was standard practice for power stations around the world.

It’s “the most feasible option at the moment,” she said.

Many residents are doubtful, however — particularly fishermen and women who test every catch for radiation…..

Sean Bonner and Azby Brown are part of 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.

Brown described trust as a “nonrenewable resource.”

“Once you’ve lost it, you don’t get it back,” Bonner said. “So we see our system as a side effect of people desperate to find something they can trust, because they’re not trusting information from the news. They’re not trusting information from authorities or institutions.”

While the cleanup continues, some areas remain off limits. Two miles from the plant, the town of Futaba remains uninhabited. Radiation levels are so high that former residents have to seek special permission to enter the town.

Katushide Okada, 75, said he had run a rose garden in the town since he was 23.

“We left with only what we were wearing,” he said. “We haven’t been able to go home since.”

Okada, who now lives in Tsukuba, about 130 miles to the south, in Ibaragi Prefecture, added, “This is a manmade disaster.”

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. …….. Keir Simmons and Yuka Tachibana reported from Futaba, Japan, and Henry Austin from London.  https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/can-japan-s-recovery-olympics-heal-fukushima-s-nuclear-scars-n1114361

January 20, 2020 - Posted by | Japan, politics

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