Five years after the Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled during a devastating earthquake and tsunami, the plant operator has admitted that only a fraction of the clean-up has been accomplished to make the site safe.
As Japan prepares to mark the anniversary of the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster, it is clear that the progress to date – clearing up debris, and installing protective structures around the four reactor buildings that were destroyed – is largely skin deep.
The most technically complex and dangerous tasks, including locating and removing the nuclear fuel that has burned through the pressure vessels of three of the reactors and is believed to have pooled at the bottom of the containment chambers, are yet to begin.
The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco), believes that the work will take at least another 40 years to complete.
The current estimate by the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority is that it will cost at least £100 billion to decommission the 19 existing United Kingdom nuclear sites. Due to the radioactivity in the reactor structure, decommissioning takes place in stages. The plans of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority for decommissioning reactors have an average 50 year time frame.
It takes 50 years to dismantle a not-explodey nuclear reactor. It takes near 50 years to dismantle an explodey nuclear reactor.