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What happened in seven years?

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What happened in seven years?

Ricardo Meyer, Feature Editor

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Japan’s ghost towns around Fukushima have slowly filled since the nuclear disaster in March 2011, where an earthquake of magnitude 9.0, 231 miles northeast of Tokyo, caused a tsunami with 30-foot waves to damage several nuclear reactors in the area. The people of these small communities however, have not had an easy time returning to a regular everyday live. In fact, many of them, still struggle today.

Most of them never returned voluntarily, but primarily due to the withdrawal of housing subsidies from the Japanese government in March 2017, six years after the tragedy. People were now faced with a near impossible choice: living with financial hardship or returning to their old neighborhoods, some of which were still heavily contaminated and presented a risk to their health.

“What I find most interesting about the disaster in Fukushima is that there is a total lack of news coverage in the United States about ongoing effects of this event,” said Sara Russell, a government and history teacher at Pleasant Valley High School. ”While I realize many world events are not continually covered by the American media, this one in particular is very relevant considering that the United States has over 60 nuclear power plants operating in 30 states.”

Russell added, “Additionally, here in the Quad Cities we have a number of nuclear power plants within a fairly close proximity.” Soon, seven years will have passed since the tragedy and due to lack of coverage one might ask, what has happened and will happen to the region and its inhabitants? How has life changed for the people affected, and what type of cleanup has been done so far?

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), who is responsible for the cleanup, has reported successes since 2011, such as the building of water tanks holding thousands of tons of contaminated water and the removal of over 700 million cubic feet of radioactive soil.

However, TEPCO is still faced with three major challenges today: the fuel removal from the spent pool, the fuel debris removal and the dismantling of the nuclear facility. Clean up that could take up to 40 years at immensely high costs, both in terms of money and the environment.

How the people’s lives changed can be read in newspapers and be seen in documentaries.

Many radioactivity sensors have been placed all around the communities to ensure that exposure is not impacting human health in a dangerous way.

Children spent most of their time indoors and need to pay special attention to their location outside. A road sign to the plant showed a radiation reading of 3.37 microsieverts per hour, a measurement at the upper end of safe. A viewing spot overlooking the reactor buildings measured over 200 microsieverts per hour, a level of extreme danger for humans.

Also, millions of bags with the contaminated soil, hidden underneath green covers can be found all over the place, clarifying the lack of a real deposit and once again reminding the residents of their unclear situation.

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What happened in seven years?