Posts Tagged ‘Tepco’

Forgotten But Not Gone (Godzilla Edition)

via Giant Freakin Robot

via Giant Freakin Robot

Last May, I wrote about the strange cloud of amnesia that seemed to have settled over the Fukushima nuclear site in Japan and how the disaster had faded almost entirely from public view, at least in the U.S.  At the time, Tepco, the plant owner and operator, was pouring water into the crippled reactor buildings to keep the nuclear cores cool. Unfortunately, all that water had to go someplace, so it was being stored in a massive 42 acre tank farm. Already, the tanks had started leaking. That jury-rigged system was intended to keep the cooling water (and the copious amounts of ground water flowing into the reactors) from being dumped at sea. Japanese fishermen really aren’t keen on radioactive fish.

Since that post, things have only gotten worse at Fukushima. This week Tepco officials reported that 300 tons of highly radioactive water has escaped from a storage tank and is making its way inexorably towards the sea. Indeed, it may already be flowing into the ocean. This is really a pretty dire situation, and certainly the worst turn of events since the original disaster. Monday’s discovery has definitely put Fukushima back into the news.

Tepco’s response has been hapless from the beginning. Now, in keeping with the whole Godzilla, sci-fi nightmare quality of the situation, the company has hatched a bizarre and improbable plan to keep the radioactive water from entering the ocean. It proposes to build a gigantic, upside down comb-shaped device to freeze the ground between the stricken reactors and the coast. Nothing else has worked so far, so maybe The Big Chill will succeed where every other attempt to contain the free-flowing waste has failed. But this latest scheme smacks of desperation. Perhaps recognizing the almost slapstick nature of the scheme, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said “It’s like a haunted house, one thing happening after another. But we must take any steps that would reduce risks to avoid a fatal accident.”

Freezing the ground indefinitely may strike us as an absurd solution. It’s easy to invoke images of Godzilla and low rent B-movie nightmares, and crack wise about the sci-fi weirdness of Tepco’s frantic efforts to stay on top of the Fukushima disaster. But it’s important to remember that the original Godzilla movies were not the chuckle-inducing late night movie fare we remember. They were grim and fiercely anti-nuclear parables made in a country which had only recently been devastated by nuclear weapons. For all the mad scientist vibe of Tepco’s latest folly, the consequences aren’t funny. They aren’t funny at all.

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