The most recent inspection of the No. 2 Nuclear Reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has cast doubts on government claims of the reactor’s stability. A probe found radiation levels 10 times the fatal dose inside the reactor; seven times higher than previously measured. The cooling water in the reactor’s containment beaker stands at only 60 centimeters — far lower than the 10 meters previously estimated. The newly collected data confirms that it could take decades to decommission the plant, as special equipment and technology will have to be developed to operate in the highly radioactive reactors.
A report in the Washington Post notes that the probe, “equipped with a tiny video camera, a thermometer, a dosimeter and a water gauge,” inspected only one of the three reactors which melt down in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami which hit eastern Japan just over a year ago: “The exact conditions of the other two reactors, where hydrogen explosions damaged their buildings, are still unknown. Simulations have indicated that more fuel inside No. 1 has breached the core than the other two, but radiation at No. 3 remains the highest.”
In determining the accurate water levels around the reactor, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. had hoped to find the source of ongoing water leaks. Instances of radioactive water spilling into the ocean from the plant have continued since it was declared stable. Last April levels of radioactive iodine-131 were found to be 5 million times the legal limit in seawater near the plant, while levels of cesium-137 were detected 1.1 million times the legal level, in a report by Yale’s e360, which noted that both these elements “can be absorbed by phytoplankton, zooplankton, kelp, and other marine life and then be transmitted up the food chain, to fish, marine mammals, and humans.”
The test conducted by the Tokyo Electric Power Co., does not speak to radiation levels outside of Fukushima Daiichi, but the results will likely serve to further discredit claims by radiation risk management adviser Shunichi Yamashita that the radiation levels around the plant do not pose a significant health threat. Japanese confidence in Nuclear power has disappeared since the Fukushima melt down. Last week Japan powered down all but one of its 54 nuclear reactors, with the final reactor set to go offline by May.