In the United States and around the world, we often talk about the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant but forget that the other damage from the earthquake and tsunami was far, far more catastrophic. The earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in Japan and also the costliest natural disaster in world history. The NY Times provides an interactive side-by-side look at some of the damaged areas.
- All 6 reactors are being decommissioned at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Full decommissioning (site dismantled and all radioactive substances removed) will take 30-40 years but removal of nuclear fuel debris around the site is expected to take 6-8 years.
- Water is continuously being pumped through the reactors to keep the fuel cool and water coming from the damaged reactors is contaminated and is therefore filtered. Some leakage of contaminated water is mixing with ground water and going into the ocean (fact sheet).
- Used fuel from all 6 reactors is being moved to a common storage facility. Although debris fell into the used fuel pools from the earthquake/tsunami and subsequent hydrogen explosions, the pools are intact and holding the fuel safely.
- TEPCO and Japanese government agencies are continuously monitoring radiation levels in the Fukushima prefecture, with oversight by international organizations. Radiation is declining exponentially due to radioactive decay and rainwater dilution. There are no immediate health risks from the contamination but long term monitoring is key (source).
- No radioactive debris from the accident has been found on the West Coast, Alaska, or Hawaii and fish caught in the Pacific Ocean are safe to eat.