The Radioactive Waste Problem in Japan

radioactive waste

Japan is struggling with what to do with the radioactive waste left behind from the Fukushima disaster.  Six years after the tsunami-induced catastrophe, the melted fuel in the reactors continues to be victimized by nuclear fuel fires, and remain too hot and radioactive to remove.

Roughly 400 tons of contaminated water are being pumped through the reactors every day to divert the materials to a decontamination container and attempt to cool the waste, but to little avail.  Not all the radioactivity can be removed in this manner, so nearly 1 million tons of contaminated water is currently being stored in containment tanks.  Read this article from the New York Times with many eye-popping stats and figures that quantify the enormity of the problem.

The Long Term Impact of the Radioactive Waste

Tokyo Electric is currently storing the radioactive waste in over 1,000 storage tanks, and is building more tanks, but this cannot continue forever.  There is only so much land that can be used to house storage tanks.

Another type of waste is radioactive sludge, which is a byproduct of the decontamination process.  Tokyo Electric is storing this material in over 3,500 containers and is evaluating long-term options.

Yet another issue is the contaminated clothing that the 6,000 cleanup workers wear every day.  So far, the equivalent of 17 million gallon-sized containers of clothing has been discarded and will eventually be burned.

There are many other issues but you get the point – Japan will likely be dealing with the aftereffects of the disaster for 50 years or more.  In the meantime, it is probable that many people in the region will develop cancer from the seepage, and vast areas of forestation is permanently dead.

In the final analysis, the vast amount of radioactive waste resulting from Fukushima is downright scary to think about.  I only hope that people will learn from this.  That is the only silver lining I can think of.

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