On the anniversary of the earthquake that launched the tsunami that took the lives, or resulted in missing persons of over 18,000 people in Japan and triggered the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl at the Japanese nuclear power station in Fukushima, Rueters have published an update on the clean up operation:

The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”: a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever-mounting number of tanks around the site. – Reuters

A clean up is estimated to take another 30 years before it can be considered complete. In the meantime nearly 8,000 workers take on the daily task of decommissioning the site and fight an on ongoing battle to stop the nigh on million tons of poisonous radioactive water seeping into the Pacific ocean.

Many of the 150,000 citizens who were displaced from their homes due to risk of contamination are being told that 2017 should see a reduction in the levels of radiation that make a return to those homes acceptable. However there is a wary distrust of the available information regarding the radiation levels, since much of it is sketchy and conflicting.

In April this year it will be 30 years since reactor four at Chernobyl went into melt down, the £18 billion clean up is still on going and the exclusion zone remains highly radioactive.

Since June 1954 when the USSR’s Obninsk Power Plant became the first to generate electricity, there have only been two of the highest category 7 nuclear events i.e.described as a major accident impacting on people and the environment. However, there have been several near misses.

It has been suggested that both of these event 7’s (Chernobyl and Fukushima) were a result of old technology and aging construction. Reactor one at Chernobyl was commission in 1977 just 9 years before reactor four exploded.

We can only trust that lessons have been learned and Chernobyl and Fukushima will remain forever as just two unfortunate events, never to be repeated. If not, prospects do not look good for people and the environment – and clean nuclear energy runs the risk of becoming disastrously dirty.

How safe is nuclear? Buildingspecifier invites the readership to comment below:

The structure designed to contain the crumbling casing surrounding the dangerous ruins of reactor 4 takes another great leap forward in its uncertain journey to completion. It has now been announced that the two sections of the giant containment building have been joined together in Chernobyl.

The ‘New Safe Confinement’ now stands at 360ft tall, 541ft long and 853ft wide. Its frame is constructed from a lattice of steel tube sections built on two longitudinal concrete beams – weighing in at an impressive 30,000 tons. To put that into context, it will be almost 4 times the height of Big Ben, over the length of two professional football pitches and nearly as wide as two Westminster Abbey’s. Not to mention a weigh equating to a herd of approximately 6667 fully grown Elephants!
Plans to create a new container to house the poor, leaky structure of the original makeshift sarcophagus were made as early as 1992, but construction work didn’t actually begin until September 2010. Since then it has consistently been plagued by funding issues. The cost of the entire plan is estimated to be €2.15bn, or £1.7bn. A construction such as this has never needed to be built anywhere else in the world, or had such costly obstacles and issues that needed to be addressed throughout every stage of construction.
The structure is comprised of two separate sections that were built offsite at a safe distance from the reactor, so as not to put the workers at prolonged risk of radiation exposure. The building implements two heavy duty cranes on rails that were used to slide the New Safe Confinement into place over the ruins of the reactor. It will purportedly be tornado-proof and will stand efficiently and safely for 100 years. It will also contain all the equipment required to deconstruct the old structure from within, as well as the damaged reactor.
Nuclear Safety Director at the EBRD (European Bank for Reconstruction and Development), Vince Novak said “This is another major step forward. The construction of the steel structure is nearing completion. We are confident that all work will be concluded by end-2017 as planned.”
There is still a lot of work to be done until the structure is completed and can be positioned in its final destination. The official date for completion is now the end of 2017; a two year extension on the original date given of 2015. This is because the project is reportedly currently running short of money, €600m behind by the end of the year, to be exact. Also casting a dark shadow over the project are proposed government sanctions that will freeze construction work within the Ukraine; all alarming obstacles that could potentially trip the Chernobyl Shelter Implementation Plan on its rocky road to success.
On 26th April 1986, during a safety check, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl power plant experienced a meltdown that could not be contained. As a result, it is estimated that more than 100,000 people have died as either a direct result of fallout or from subsequent radiation-related illnesses. It is also estimated that over £111.7 billion worth of damage was caused by the disaster. These astounding figures prove that regardless of who is considered responsible for the accident, cleaning up Chernobyl is of worldwide concern. If another reactor had blown during the meltdown, Chernobyl could have rendered the whole of Europe uninhabitable.
The sheer scale and paramountcy of this project cannot be overstated. As you read this the old sarcophagus is crumbling, threatening to release 200 tons of radioactive material into the environment. All eyes are on the Ukraine as they painstakingly press forward, working tirelessly on arguably the most important structure of the 21st Century.