Fukushima Still Rattles Japan, Five Years After Nuclear Disaster

9 Mar 2016   Japan, Nuclear

The radioactive rubble has been cleared. Poured concrete has covered the toxic dust. And many workers have traded hazmat suits for surgical masks.  Five years ago, a massive earthquake spawned a tsunami that flooded the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, prompting the world’s worst nuclear disaster in a quarter century. Near the plant, many residents are angry that they still can’t return home and grieve for their lost loved ones. But inside the razor-wire fence, the visual scars have mostly healed and an uneasy calm has returned.  “Finally we’re turning into a normal workplace,” plant chief Akira Ono said. “We can at last lay the groundwork and prepare for the task ahead.”  Much is riding on the appearance of normalcy at Fukushima.  As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe moves to reopen Japanese nuclear plants that were all shut after the disaster on March 11, 2011, a distrustful public is pushing back. A court on Wednesday ordered Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt two of the four reactors that have been restarted, saying the utility had failed to show the public they were safe. The utility called the ruling “unacceptable” and said it would appeal.  Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of Fukushima Daiichi, is seeking to reopen some of the seven reactors at its largest nuclear plant, Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Nuclear supporters argue that resource-poor Japan has few other energy options that wouldn’t deepen its dependence on foreign energy sources and worsen its carbon footprint.

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