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High cost of cheap energy: Fukushima tragedy 2 years on

JAPAN-QUAKE-NUCLEAR-DISASTER-ACCIDENTTwo years after the Fukushima disaster, much of the clean-up effort is still ‘theoretical’, survivors go to court for compensation and thousands march against nuclear power, while the government gives up on the phase-out promise. Experts estimate closing the damaged Fukushima reactors down will cost around US$15 billion and will take about 30 to 40 years.

Two years ago the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986 was provoked by an earthquake followed by a tsunami. The natural disaster knocked out cooling equipment at the Fukushima Daiichi plant north of Tokyo, leading to the meltdown of three reactor cores.

The catastrophe claimed 19,000 lives.

“There are still buildings on the plant at Fukushima Daiichi that human beings cannot enter. There’s a lot of work that cannot be done yet, because the radiation levels are too high. So at this point what’s being done is that the grounds are being prepared for the work to come, but a lot of this work is still theoretical: how to remove the fuel, how to lessen the radiation there on the site and how to decommission the plants,” Robert Jacobs, associate professor at the Hiroshima Peace University, told RT.

What hampers the clean-up process even further is groundwater flooding, with hundreds of tonnes of water seeping daily into the damaged reactor buildings.

Japan seems to be willing to rely solely on its domestic heavyweights, such as nuclear reactor-makers Toshiba Corp and Hitachi Ltd, in the decommissioning process.

Companies from outside Japan have failed to win any of the 21 contracts awarded this year to develop clean-up technology, Reuters reports. And that despite companies with expertise in similar projects having taken part in the tender process. Companies like Louisiana-based Shaw Group, which carried out the clean-up effort after the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents, and also participated in decommissioning eight US commercial reactors.

Foreign bidders say this tactic of leaving firms with prior experience out will only make recovery process longer, while the Japanese argue it will be easier to contact domestic companies in case of problems.

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