In March 2011, a tsunami struck the coast of Japan that destroyed three nuclear reactors and severely damaged a fourth nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi site. The radioactive waste from the plant has been bleeding into the neighboring forests and Pacific Ocean for over four years. TEPCO, the company that oversees the plant, has consistently failed to contain the disaster. Hundreds of tons of water are poured into the reactors each day in an effort to keep nuclear reactors cool. Now, TEPCO has admitted that the buildings at the Fukushima site are sinking and will become more unstable with time.
TEPCO recently issued a report that highlights the depths to which the reactor turbine buildings have plummeted. The report reads that the Reactor 1 building sank by 730 mm, Reactor 2 by 725 mm, Reactor 3 by 710 mm, and Reactor 4 by 712 mm. In addition, the reference point has sunk by 709 mm. The report also admits that the company knew that the Fukushima plant has been sinking irregularly for quite some time. Nevertheless, TEPCO has yet to report the height of the turbine buildings above sea level.(1)
The company does not know how to deal with the sinking buildings because no one knows where the nuclear waste inside the reactors is located. What is known is that the radiation levels inside the plant are too high for human exposure. Engineers have developed robots in an effort to investigate the crippled reactors. Unfortunately, at least one of the robots has prematurely quit working and been left for dead inside the reactors.
Tsunami, aftershocks and explosions
TEPCO does not know much about the situation inside the vessels, but they do know that the buildings are becoming increasingly unstable. The company therefore faces a dilemma. On the one hand, the company needs to gather more information about the situation inside the reactors in order to make an informed decision, which takes time. Since the buildings are sinking, time isn’t on TEPCO’s side. On the other hand, acting prematurely based upon limited information carries its own risks.(2)
In addition to the tsunami, explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi site have weakened the buildings. Officials report that the lower part of the reactor buildings, the part of the buildings that have been sinking, could cause “flame acceleration and potentially transition to detonation.”(3)
The initial earthquake, aftershocks, explosions and sea water inflow have weakened the reactor building structures to an unknown degree. A large enough earthquake or aftershock could cause complete building failure in Reactor 4, which has already been severely damaged.(4)
The fall of Atlantis and Fukushima
To add fuel to the radioactive fire, the probability that another earthquake will strike the coast of Japan before officials can clean up the nuclear power plant is high. Major earthquakes strike Japan about once every 60 years. Conservative estimates suggest that it will take 40 years to clean the Fukushima Daiichi site. Some Japanese scientists have suggested that there is a 70 percent chance that another major earthquake will strike Japan within the next 30 years — well before officials will have a chance to straighten out the nuclear plant. It is unlikely that the buildings could withstand another major earthquake.(5)
The reactors are sinking into their own toxic depths of hell. The Fukushima power plant, therefore, resembles the tale of Atlantis, a mythical island of great power and ethical decline. The Atlantic Ocean is believed to have entombed Atlantis after earthquakes and floods laid waste to the island in one violent surge. Unlike Atlantis, however, the fall of the Fukushima power plant has reverberations that spread around the globe.