Naohiro Masuda, the head of decommissioning for TEPCO, has acknowledged that they will have to start thinking “out of the box” if they are ever going to be able to examine the bottom of the core and determine where the melted debris is located.
And that out of the box thinking needs to happen quickly if they are to meet their schedule of beginning the actual clean-up work in 2021.
Radiation levels remain incredibly high at the plant. Last month, TEPCO used a remote-controlled camera and a special measurement device to take readings of the radiation levels near the core of reactor 2. While levels at the core were 73 sieverts per hour immediately after the disaster, they have now reached as high as 530 sieverts per hour. Humans exposed to this level of exposure would die almost immediately, while a robot could survive no longer than two hours. Scientists are unsure whether the radiation levels have risen considerably, or if they are only now being measured accurately for the first time. They also worry that since readings can still only be taken at a distance, the true radiation levels could be far higher. Either way, the findings cast further doubt on TEPCO’s ambitious plan to start cleaning the site up in only four years.
In the meantime, the radiation in the area has had a devastating effect on the region’s agriculture, and thousands of people remain displaced from their homes. It can only be hoped that TEPCO will come up with a better solution to determining the extent of the damage than dying robots, and they need to do so soon.
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