First Pics Taken Inside Fukushima Reactor

Fukushima No.1 nuclear reactor
High-resolution photographs from inside the Fukushima No.1 nuclear reactor in Japan | Image by TEPCO

After years of failed attempts, investigators have finally obtained high-resolution photographs from inside the Fukushima No.1 nuclear reactor in Japan, which indicate that the cleanup of the site could take longer than initially anticipated.

The nuclear plant meltdown in 2011 was caused by a tsunami that followed in the wake of a significant earthquake, knocking out the ability of operators to control the temperature in three of the plant’s four reactors.

The 12 images released this week show an apocalyptic scene of twisted and melted metal inside the main structural support of the No.1 reactor, the most heavily damaged of the reactors. About 880 tons of nuclear fuel are melted into the bottom of the reactor, as reported by the Associated Press. The images were captured using miniature drones after previous attempts using robots failed.

Investigators with Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO), which is heading up the cleanup effort, reported they could not determine whether images of globular metallic objects hanging from the ceiling are melted metal or remaining nuclear fuel.

Three TEPCO employees were killed during the 2011 incident, but those deaths were attributed to the earthquake, which measured 9.0 on the Richter Scale. The official report found that the initial earthquake, which lasted three minutes, lifted the sea floor as much as 60 feet in some areas, resulting in the tsunami. The nuclear reactors were not impacted by the earthquake but failed due to the tsunami.

No cases of radiation sickness have been reported as a result of the reactor meltdown, but as many as 100,000 people were forced to evacuate the surrounding area permanently.

TEPCO initially reported that cleanup at the destroyed power plant would take 30 to 40 years. Officials now believe the timeline might be extended after seeing the damage inside the reactor.

The organization said that one of the most significant problems is the accumulation of contaminated water used to cool the nuclear material. Japan has allowed TEPCO to release treated, contaminated water into the sea. So far, radiation testing of fish caught offshore shows slightly elevated, but not dangerous, radiation levels.

Due to the reactor’s depth, the drones could not reach the bottom. The photos will aid investigators in determining how to gather more data on the conditions within the reactor as they begin to create a plan to tear down the site. The plant originally housed four reactors, three of which were completely destroyed over a period of days following the disaster. Reactor No.4 will not be put back into service and will be decommissioned.

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