Fukushima Forgotten: High Radiation Levels in Japan

Emma Torzec, Staff Writer

For residents of villages affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster back in 2011, the dangerously high levels of radiation recorded early February 2017 are sounding very familiar. In 2011, large amounts of radiation released in the air near the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in Ottozawa, Japan forced residents of villages and cities surrounding Fukushima to leave.

Radiation weakens and breaks up DNA, which either damages cells enough to kill them or causes them to mutate in ways that can lead to cancer. Since the accident, workers have been on site making sure the plant is stabilized at all times.

The Fukushima accident of March 11, 2011 was more difficult to handle because more damage was done to the nuclear reactors. The Nuclear Association explains that the same day a major 9.0 magnitude earthquake occurred, a 15-metre tsunami followed. Both of these events would soon have catastrophic consequences.

The damage done to the plant disabled the power supply and cooling of the reactors, causing a nuclear accident. After power outages, caused by the tsunami and earthquake aftershocks, multiple problems occurred in numerous reactors. Like major fuel melting, water leaks, hydrogen explosions and high temperatures. During that time, large amounts of radiation were being released as workers and volunteers scrambled to fix the damaged reactors. One thing they had to do was trying to cool the reactors and fuel ponds using recycled water. Fox News explains that this tsunami destroyed the emergency generators that would have provided power to cool the nuclear reactors. As a result, the insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns, as well as explosions of hydrogen-air chemicals and the release of radioactive material into the surrounding prefecture.

In the past four to six years, residents have started to move back in after the areas were deemed safe by the government. Apart from the danger for themselves, residents returning in the past couple of years also have to deal with their homes being completely destroyed due to the tsunami, earthquake and radiation when they move back home. The Independent reveals that scientists recorded the amount of radiation in the area, 210 sieverts per hour. These radiation levels in Fukushima’s unit two reactor are so high they could kill a human in only two minutes.

The Independent also claims, despite the dangerously high levels of radiation inside this reactor, company officials said it was not leaking outside the reactor, therefore making it safe anyway. Fox News reported that years after residents were forced to leave their home following the nuclear disaster, the Japanese government informed them that it was safe for them to return to most of the small villages in the surrounding area including the agricultural village of Iitate. Fox News claims that the rest of the some 6,000 people who once called their villages home were told that the evacuation orders were to be lifted by the end of March after the government has completed its decontamination.

Since the beginning of February the radiation levels have gotten as high as 520 sieverts according to The Guardian. Investigations are not easy to conduct since the high levels of radiation prevent the robots who are sent into the power plant from doing their jobs. The robots have cameras that allow researchers and scientists to see the damage inside the plant, since it is unsafe for them to go in themselves. The radiation cripples these robots, even though over the years new robots have been designed to adjust to the amount of radiation.

Forbes claims that these levels of nuclear radiation detected at the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan spiked on February 2nd to its highest level since the triple core meltdown in 2011. Not much is known yet about the reason why the radiation levels have been so high, but it is once again not looking safe for residents. This is devastating news to the residents who just recently were able to move back to the place they call home.

The levels of radiation recorded in February have been a constant fear for residents, but compared to a few years ago, when these problems in this area first began, scientists now know much more about how to deal with radiation. Thanks to the scientists, workers, and volunteers who risked their lives to save many residents from the devastating consequences of living in the radiation. The death toll on March 11 was mainly due to the tsunami and not the radiation. Volunteers who gave up their life to fix the reactors are still remembered today as heroes. Working on the Fukushima nuclear plant has given scientists more experience and knowledge on how to deal with and understand radiation.