Japan has been dealing with the fallout of the Fukushima nuclear reactor that melted down in March 2011.
Kagoshima Prefecture Gov. Yuichiro Ito granted final approval for the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant to restart its two reactors on Nov. 7. The decision would make Sendai the first nuclear plant to reopen in Japan under new safety rules implemented in 2013. The plant is set to go back online in early 2015, though lawsuits could delay it.
TEPCO said Aug. 6 that the plant's No. 3 reactor had fully melted down in March 2011, instead of the 63% of the core previously thought to have melted. TEPCO says that new analysis shows that a cooling system thought to have functioned properly actually shut down six hours early.
On Aug. 7, TEPCO proposed to dump previously contaminated groundwater into the ocean starting this fall after treating the water to remove radiation. The plant says it will only proceed on the approval of authorities and that it had briefed local fisherman on the plan in late July.
TEPCO said on May 20 that it had started rerouting uncontaminated groundwater -- which it first stores and tests for radioactivity -- into the Pacific Ocean. The system is designed to bring down incoming groundwater to the plants grounds by 25%, or 100 tons a day.
TEPCO installed two advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) modules at its No. 1 reactor Oct. 22. The modules join an existing unit that together work to reduce radioactive materials in waste water.
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400,000 tons of radioactive water are stored at the site. TEPCO stores about 400 tons of contaminated water daily. In late 2013, about 300 tons of contaminated groundwater were seeping daily into the Pacific Ocean via leaks at the plant. Contaminated water continues to leak as of late 2014.
The entire Fukushima cleanup operation is estimated to take 30-40 years and cost $100 billion, in addition to compensation payouts to those affected by the disaster. TEPCO has so far requested $38 billion from the Japanese government to assist with legal claims.
"TEPCO employees are very well trained and have excellent knowledge of how the Japanese energy sector works, making them very attractive [to potential employers]."
Over 2,500 employees have left TEPCO since 2011 including at least a 1,000 that were offered early retirement in 2014. Many of the employees have taken jobs at other companies in the energy sector, including with solar power companies. Less than 150 left in 2010.
"Wait on the grounds of the [Fukushima] Daiichi plant in order to immediately return to your stations."
On May 20, Japan's Asahi Shimbun revealed a 400-page transcript of 29 hours of testimony by Yoshida in 2011 to Japanese investigators. In the testimony, which the government had previously kept secret, Yoshida says that over 650 of the plant's workers and managers fled the meltdown, even though Yoshida had ordered them to stay.
Copyright 2014 Reuters
Over 350 residents of a small district in the Fukushima city of Tamura were allowed to return to their homes April 1 after being evacuated in 2011 due to proximity to the crippled plant. However, as of May 11, only 78 residents had returned.
A study published in Journal of Heredity found that barn swallows near Fukushima showed signs of "aberrant white feathers" starting in 2012, and with increased frequency in 2013 and 2014. The same abnormalities were found in barn swallows after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.