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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Nightmare ahead

February 19, 2019


VOX POPULI: ‘1st contact’ with melted nuclear debris points to nightmare ahead




Traffic safety classes are often held for the benefit of elementary school pupils.

But one given earlier this month in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, was of special significance.


Because of extensive damage done to the local railway system by the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011, most of the children had never seen a functioning railroad crossing. But they were finally taught the basics of how to safely cross one, according to the Iwate Prefecture edition of The Asahi Shimbun.


"Never walk into the crossing while the alarm is on," warned a railway company worker. "Never cross the tracks where there is no crossing gate" was another crucial advice.


The Asahi story was accompanied by a photo of these children crossing the tracks with their hands raised.


The local train service will reopen between Miyako and Kamaishi on March 23, now that the tsunami-damaged train stations and tracks have been restored.


Eight years after the devastating earthquake and tsunami, life is finally regaining some normalcy in the affected areas. The passage of time reminds me of the grief that confronted the survivors for all those days and months.


But where the flow of time is concerned, an entirely different "world" exists for the Fukushima nuclear disaster and its aftermath.


Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, made the first physical contact on Feb. 13 with melted nuclear debris at the bottom of the plant's No. 2 reactor.


A rod-like probe, inserted into the reactor, reportedly picked up lumps of debris the size of small stones. The utility says the project will prove useful when retrieval work starts in earnest in 2021.


Images have been released of the reddish-brown amorphous mass. But its level of radioactivity is still unknown, which means that TEPCO has not even reached the earliest stage of its reactor decommissioning process.


I am acutely reminded again of the magnitude of this irreversible mess.


The technology we are left with is an out-of-control monster. And so long as nuclear power plants remain in operation, there is no guarantee that the same nightmare will not recur--even as we speak.


--The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 16


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