The cleanup has hardly begun…
Contaminated clothing represents just a fraction of the waste facing Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) in a cleanup that may take four decades. A tour of the plant last week went past rows of grey and blue tanks holding enough irradiated water to fill 100 Olympic pools on the plateau overlooking Dai-Ichi’s four ruined reactors. And the water keeps coming.
The utility estimates it may be eight years before radiation levels fall enough to let workers start the main task of removing 260 tons of melted nuclear fuel. That process took more than a decade at the U.S. accident on Three Mile Island, a partial meltdown at a single reactor containing about one fifth the amount of fuel at Fukushima.
There are no cheap or painless ways out of the carbon crisis. Nuclear advocates point to the advantage of a functioning nuclear plant that can generate electricity without carbon emissions. What they leave out is the carbon footprint of building the plant, the routine decommissioning, and the consequences when something goes wrong.
On balance, nuclear is not the answer.