Return to Fukushima

Three years after the disaster at Fukushima, science correspondent Miles O’Brien returned to the Daiichi nuclear plant for an exclusive look at the site. Follow Miles on a never-before-seen tour of Daiichi’s sister site, Fukushima Daini, which narrowly avoided a meltdown during the Tohoku earthquake. As the country debates turning its reactors back on, Miles asks: will Japan have a nuclear future?


  1. #1 DanSed
    August 10, 2014

    Why do you have a skull next to “Return To Fukushima”? Does that relate to the 0 people who died from the nuclear accident or the 20,000 who died in the earth quake followed by tsunami? If you were covering a 5MW wind turbine that bursts in to flames, as has been known to happen with the loss of life, would you put a skull next to that?

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 10, 2014

    DanSed, there is a skull there for the same reason there is a skull on this post:

    I’ll leave you to figure it out.

    I’m not sure what your point about death tolls might be. This post and the video is not about the effects of the earthquake on the rest of Japan. Nor is it about any wind turbine that burst into flames though that does sound like an interesting story.

  3. #3 phillydoug
    February 18, 2015


    I haven’t checked in with a comment for a while, but have been reading your posts. Thanks as always for what you do.

    I saw this today about whats been going on, quietly, well under the radar, at Fukushima, and wanted to bring it to your attention:

    What jumped out at me was this bit:

    “… nearly 160 million gallons of contaminated water stored on-site pose massive logistical challenges, and examiners strongly urged Japan to consider controlled discharges of the liquid into the Pacific Ocean once it is treated …80,000 gallons of groundwater continue to enter the plant per day”.

    Hmm, since there are ‘logistical challenges’ (like it’s expensive to collect and store the stuff, and we don’t really have a safe way of dealing with it), the solution is– ‘just dump the contaminated water, which is what we do at every other nuclear facility in the world, so it’s no big deal’?

    In the era of Twitter and Snapchat, Fukushima is ancient history, but it is still a pile of highly radioactive rubble, not even contained, let alone stabilized: 80 k of ground water *per day*? Holy seepage, Batman! I remember some of the more involved conversations among commenters when you and Ana were providing regular updates, and one of my interlocutors, an industry chemist, I think, scoffed at my raising the issue of liquefaction effects on the structural integrity of the reactors; he made much of the fact that liquefaction requires high groundwater levels to occur during earthquakes (it was observed in Tokyo during the same event). I’m thinking 80k gallons per day represents a sufficient amount to make liquefaction possible.

    So, how stable is the subsoil when the next 6+ earthquake hits Japan? But really, how often does Japan have 6+ earthquakes?

    Doh! That’s right, they have them on almost a monthly basis:

    “11 earthquakes in the past 7 days
    32 earthquakes in the past month
    344 earthquakes in the past year”

    and a 6.7 earthquake *this week*.

    So, which should I be more concerned about, the plan to dump 160 million gallons of radioactive water– plus 80k more each day– into the ocean, or the unstable geology of the whole compound?

    And here’s what constitutes progress at the site:

    “In the past year, Japan has succeeded in removing spent and fresh fuel from one reactor, Unit 4, and reduced the inflow of groundwater into the facility. It has also taken steps to clarify which entities are responsible for particular jobs, the IAEA team noted.”

    So four years down the pike, and we’re still deciding job responsibilities? That’s some serious spin, even for the IAEA, to classify that as ‘progress’.

    Fresh and spent fuel rods were only removed this past year? How many people knew the rods we still there, having water pumped over them to prevent uncontrolled fission, for the past three years?

    Ancient history, nothing to see here.