Mint Press By Whitney Webb Posted Thurs., Feb.23, 2017
While media attention has largely drifted away from the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the years since the disaster, a recent and disturbing development has once again made Fukushima difficult if not impossible to ignore.
On Feb. 2, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, quietly released a statement regarding the discovery of a hole measuring 2 meters in diameter within the metal grating at the bottom of the containment vessel in the plant’s No. 2 reactor.
Though news of this hole is indeed concerning, even more shocking was the associated jump in radiation detected in the area. According to estimates taken at the time of the hole’s discovery, radiation inside the reactor was found to have reached 530 sieverts per hour, a massive increase compared to the 73 sieverts per hour recorded after the disaster.
To put these figures in perspective, NASA’s maximum amount of radiation exposure permitted for astronauts over their entire lifetime is 1 sievert.
Human exposure to 5 sieverts would kill half of those exposed within a month, while 10 sieverts would prove fatal to nearly all exposed within a matter of weeks.
TEPCO said that it would send a robot into the area to survey the full extent of the damage.
The first robot, deployed on Feb. 16, was unable to conduct any meaningful measurements, as the extreme conditions within the reactor forced operators to abandon it.
Within three hours of deployment, the device stopped responding to operators despite its stated ability to withstand high levels of radiation.
When a second robot was sent to investigate, it also failed.
Researchers have maintained that fish, however, are still “safe” to eat despite the fact that at least one group of doctors agrees that there is “no safe level of radionuclide exposure, whether from food, water or other sources, period.”
Despite the marked increase in cancer rates, TEPCO and the Japanese government insist that Fukushima radiation is “unlikely” to result in a greater incidence of cancer cases.
However, exposure to Iodine-131, the main radionuclide released into the air and water during the meltdown, is known to increase human risk of thyroid cancer and is the most clearly defined environmental factor associated with thyroid tumors, suggesting that a correlation between radiation and exposure likely exists.