By Will Davis
The collective memory of, and indeed, the images conjured by mention of the Fukushima Daiichi accident is still, seven years later, largely that above. We see here, in a photo taken on March 15, 2011, three of the four damaged nuclear units at the site. Unit 2’s reactor building stands largely intact at left, but conceals what we soon learned to be a melted reactor. Unit 3 is to the right of it, with steaming reactor building destroyed by the explosion of hydrogen gas. Unit 4 beyond was damaged by the same gas which was pushed over through common gas handling system piping to explode later. Out of view to our left in this photo is Unit 1, heavily damaged by hydrogen gas explosion but in better shape physically than Unit 3.
That’s not the case today – in fact, far from it and infinitely better. Years ago the reactors were stabilized; assured shut down and fuel masses cooled. The condition of those masses remained largely speculative until fairly recently, but conditions such as temperature and recriticality (which has never been approached) have been firmly assured from almost the beginning. The damaged buildings seen here are secured, sealed; the debris removed. The site is, for lack of a better word, much more habitable. In fact, it’s so markedly improved that the old J-Village, a large personnel and supply staging center miles to the south which used to be the cutoff for personnel not in protective gear, has been shut down and, sometime soon, will become an impressive and world-class soccer training facility.
That isn’t to say that the situation is over – far from it. In fact, the future is still fairly uncertain for both TEPCO (owner of the plant) and for Japan in two important ways.
This recent view courtesy
By Will Davis