Newly-discovered radiation levels in one of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant’s reactors are stunningly high, the Japan Times and others have reported. The space is so radioactive that even a robot couldn’t last two hours, let alone a human.
It was on March 11, 2011, that the coastal power plant in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture was hit by a tidal wave, which not only cut off the plant’s electrical power, also took out the generators that provided its backup power. The natural disaster triggered the meltdown of three reactors at the plant.
The new readings come from inside reactor two, where the radiation levels are 530 sieverts per hour, according to Tepco, the Tokyo Electric Power Company. That’s highly radioactive— most radiation is measured in thousandths of a sievert, a unit called a millisievert.
At the end of January, Tepco said that they had taken, from inside reaction two, “intriguing images that may be fuel debris from the March 2011 accident,” but needed to study them more. (They have provided more information of their findings in this PDF.)
The company would like to deploy a robot, but the robot would be fried before even two hours at those radiation levels, since it is designed to endure 1000 sieverts, according to the Japan Times.
The radiation levels are the highest yet measured at the devastated plant, which could take as many as four decades to fully deal with.
Not since Chernobyl suffered a catastrophic meltdown in 1986 in the former Soviet Union has the world witnessed such a serious nuclear accident— and it was only in 2016 that experts succeeded in covering Chernobyl’s site with a large protective dome to protect the concrete sarcophagus.