27 Février 2014
February 27, 2014
OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture--Notations scribbled on a control panel testify to the panic that gripped technicians as disaster enveloped the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
Working in darkness after all power was lost at the crippled facility in March 2011, the technicians were frantically recording water levels in the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors before they went into meltdown.
For the first time since then, Tokyo Electric Power Co. on Feb. 26 gave media representatives access to the central control room for the two reactors that failed.
At the time, 24 technicians were stationed in the command center that controlled those reactors. The power outage caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami made it impossible to cool the reactors.
Before dawn broke on March 12, 2011, radiation levels in the control room had risen to an alarming one millisievert per hour. Hours later, the building that housed the No. 1 reactor exploded, damaging the control room and causing ceiling panels to peel off.
Other than the hastily written water-gauge levels notations, few reminders of that grim time remain. The damaged ceiling panels have been stripped away and the floor of the room is now covered in pink-colored sheets. Radiation levels have dropped to between four and nine microsieverts per hour.
Still, technicians rarely enter the central control room.
For neighboring reactor buildings, radiation levels are so high that workers dare not enter those facilities.
The extremely high levels of radiation have stymied work on decommissioning the reactors.