We all know about the Fukushima disaster that occurred in 2011, but many people today have forgotten about it, and don’t consider it much more than a footnote at this point — just another Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. Unfortunately, this viewpoint belies the real truth — particularly when it comes to the water around the plant, which is still highly radioactive. Japanese scientists are only barely beginning to get a handle on the true scale of the problem, and they are miles away from taking action to actually solve it. The Fukushima situation could be far worse than Chernobyl, and it may be decades before we can truly say that the situation is no longer at a danger point.
10. Some People Are Convinced The Whole Thing Was Caused by Israel
It wouldn’t be a disaster without a ridiculous conspiracy theorist spending thousands of words saying something that doesn’t make any sense, but sounds really cool and awful to all the other crackpots. A man named Jim Stone, whose credentials cannot be verified but claims to be a former national security official and says he has previously worked in engineering, believes he has found the real truth behind Fukushima. According to Stone, the Japanese were actually working on enriched uranium to help Iran, Israel’s worst enemy, acquire nuclear weapons with which to destroy them.
This, of course, couldn’t stand with the Jewish people, so they first planted bombs inside the facility and then also planted them on the ocean floor. After this cunning trick, they waited for an earthquake, and then used that as cover to detonate their bombs and cause a massive tsunami. They also set off some bombs inside Fukushima for good measure. Of course, there are several reasons why this theory doesn’t work. The first reason is that the tsunami was proven to be a completely natural event, but it also doesn’t make sense to suggest they would be able to bomb the facility without sabotage being obvious, and without the Japanese making a big deal about it with the international community. The truth is that it is quite logical that everything happened naturally — people just like to believe otherwise because it’s scary to know how much is out of our control due to nature.
9. TEPCO And The Japanese Government Colluded To Stop Use Of The Word Meltdown
The Japanese are a culture known for being worried about saving face, and during the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, they certainly proved that it was often more important to them than people’s safety. For the first couple months, the utility company — as well as the government — would not even say that it had melted down, and carefully avoided the word. When evidence came up later of collusion at the highest level, both entities did their best to claim it was not true, but the damage to their reputation was done.
The overall problem is not really seeing major improvement, and while some areas may have less radiation, that doesn’t mean we should let our guard down. The government still tries to downplay the radiation that’s still in effect, and seems interested in sending people back to the area, despite the fact that the situation nearby is still not even close to being under control, and may not be for the foreseeable future. The government wants everyone in the world to think it’s all fine, and contained, but the situation is almost certainly not under control and sending people back to Fukushima at this point is premature.
8. Increasingly Sophisticated Robots Are Barely Making Incremental Progress
Japan is well known for their skill at building robots, but as of late they have been far more challenged in that regard than ever before. They’ve been tasked with creating robots that can make their way through the ruins of the melted down facilities and get a view of the fuel rods, as well as any other damage done. After several years and many robots lost to the incredible damage of the radiation — that could kill a human in a minute — they finally managed to build one that could make it far enough to get a view of the fuel rods.
However, the problem is that this is really just the beginning. Even if they manage to start making reliable robots to get a better view of the problem, that means they still have to fix the problem itself. If making robots that could keep functioning long enough just to get pictures took six years, we may be waiting a very long time before they can create robots that function well enough to actually start cleaning up the mess. Japan may want to invest even more into robotics research, because this problem is not going away on its own, and their current technology is clearly just not enough.
7. It Is Estimated By Experts That It Could Take Four Decades To Cleanup
Many people have been worried that the cleanup could take many years, but experts have cautioned that it could be even worse than most of us ever imagined. The current estimate is that it could take about four decades, and that’s if we don’t see any new complications and the cleanup efforts continue properly on track the entire time. This creates a huge problem for Japan, because it is a long term drain on their economy that nets them nothing in return, creates a constant sense of mistrust, and makes it difficult for people to consider further nuclear power.
The government wishes to already start sending people back, but with the recovery efforts expected to take decades, there is also the specter of some kind of setback causing more evacuations in the future. However, Japan is an small island with a large population and they want to be able to use that space again for people as soon as possible. Those who live in other countries are starting to worry when they hear about the timetable, as any nuclear disaster that isn’t fully contained can send nuclear fallout all over the world.
6. Two Years After The Disaster, Contaminated Water Reached The Shores Of North America
Shortly after Fukushima, a graphic started going around claiming that a radiation cloud from the disaster was spreading all over the world and would soon reach North America, where it would pretty much contaminate everything. Now, it was proven that there was no gigantic cloud or wave of radiation, and that such fallout wouldn’t even move that fast anyway. However, both a group of researchers and a private citizen group who wanted to track radiation spent two years gathering water samples and constantly testing for radiation.
Their data found that it actually took two years for any radiation from Fukushima to reach all the way to the shores of North America. While some may consider this a reason to be seriously alarmed, the diluted amount — while notable — was also well below what’s considered harmful by scientists. Now, while it was not a reason for immediate alarm, it does show that these disasters can have global effects, and that if Japan’s nuclear wastewater were to make its way more rapidly and untreated into the ocean, perhaps we would start to see a more demonstrable effect, or even a real problem.
5. Japan Spent A Quarter Of A Billion On An Ice Wall That Isn’t Working
Japan has a problem with groundwater around the damaged nuclear reactors: it gets in and then it’s pumped back out of the basements, and is now contaminated and has to be properly stored and treated until it can be released at some point in the far future. So far, hundreds and hundreds of tanks of contaminated water surround the area as Japan tries to keep a handle on the problem. As a crazy, last ditch, supervillain-style plan to deal with the issue, TEPCO decided to use electric power to freeze the ground around the reactors up to 100 feet down, creating an ice wall to block out the groundwater.
Unfortunately, it’s not working as well as they hoped, despite the quarter of a billion dollars spent making it. The biggest issue is that water simply finds a way to get through, and 100 feet, or perhaps even 1,000 may not actually be enough. Critics are also worried that since the ice wall requires a lot of very vulnerable technology, it could easily fall apart in a natural disaster, and then the entire situation could quickly spiral out of control again.
4. Wild Boars And The Forest Are Retaking Fukushima, As Residents Prematurely Return
Fukushima was been abandoned by its citizens following the mandatory evacuation, after the disaster caused radiation levels too high for the citizens to continue safely living in the area. People literally just left their homes and much of their furnishings and lives behind, and hoped that one day they could return and keep going as before. However, apart from the worries of lingering radiation, if they decide to go back they’re likely to find themselves with a lot of work to do.
The forest is starting to reclaim the land, and after only a few years, many houses even have trees or other vegetation growing into them and through them. They have also sustained all kind of damage from the weather, and from animals who have used their homes as shelters from the elements. To make matters crazier for the citizens, the city is becoming overrun with wild boars, who are behaving far differently than boars usually do. Wild boars in Japan tend to be shyer around humans and stick more to the mountains. Whether or not it’s the radiation is debatable, but these boars don’t seem fearful of a human presence and appear to behave more aggressively as well.
3. More People Died From The Evacuation Process Than From The Disaster Directly
Most people think of the disaster itself as the deadliest part of the whole debacle when it came to human lives — the news footage and pictures were devastating and we could only imagine what kind of horror the people closest to the tsunami were going through. Now, we don’t mean to downplay the damage done by the tsunami itself; it claimed almost 1,600 lives. However, the aftermath of the disaster caused serious damage to TEPCO’s nuclear power plants, and before long the people of Fukushima had to evacuate and, as we’ve just covered, leave their lives behind.
Roughly 300,000 people had to abandon the city and find a new place to live (at least until the disaster was fully taken care of). The stress of the forced move, the lack of hospitals for some, the lack of food for others, and — in some cases — suicide, created quite a death toll. While it wasn’t that much higher, an informal survey found slightly more than 1,600 people had died due to the evacuation itself, and not even because of the initial disaster. Unfortunately, this shows that poor government planning can sometimes be even more damaging than a tsunami hitting a coastal town.
2. Japan Has Considered Simply Dumping A Million Tons Of Radioactive Water Into The Ocean
As we mentioned earlier, Japan has a bit of a problem when it comes to contaminated groundwater. They believe they are processing most of the radioactive elements out, but the tritium remains and it will still be quite a few years time before that even reaches its half-life. In the meantime, they have about a million tons of the stuff laying about, and they don’t know what to do with it. Some people have even suggested simply dumping it into the ocean. However, critics from both inside and outside Japan think that is a ludicrous idea.
We simply do not know what the effects could be of dumping that much radioactive water into the ocean, and we shouldn’t start testing on this scale now. Those who have called for it have suggested they should do it in case something were to happen that caused the water tanks to burst, such as another natural disaster, but that would still be more contained than simply being dumped into the ocean — releasing a million tons of tritium-laced water into the ocean is the exact opposite of responsible containment. For now, Japan has put that plan on hold, likely because releasing that much nuclear wastewater at once might even be considered a violation of international treaties or even an act of war. It would certainly be an unprecedented and fully willful poisoning of our oceans.
1. The Earthquake That Triggered The Tsunami Was The Fourth Largest Ever Recorded
When the Fukushima disaster occured, many people felt that Japan had been completely irresponsible to have their facilities in what many considered a vulnerable position in the first place. The perspective of most people is that Japan should have seen this coming (in some form) and better prepared for what seemed like an inevitability. After all, this is a country that’s very familiar with earthquakes and tsunamis. However, their familiarity may not have been enough in this case, because the earthquake and ensuing tsunami were entirely unprecedented in their history.
Japan has had, in recorded history, close to 200 earthquakes that reached over 7.0 magnitude, so they are used to building up to a pretty strong scale for this kind of eventuality. Unfortunately, the earthquake that created the horrific tsunami was a 9.0. That makes it the strongest earthquake Japan has ever experienced, and the fourth strongest earthquake in recorded history. This doesn’t mean the Japanese were entirely responsible, but it does give a certain explanation as to why a culture that is known for dealing with earthquakes and tsunamis was caught so off-guard by one.