UPDATE: A large (magnitude 7.1) earthquake has just occurred (8:57 PM EDT in the US, 9:57 AM in Japan) in northeastern Japan. There is a tsunami warning now. More as it happens in the comments. The epicenter is 155 miles from Fukushima. Japanese sites say M7.1 and USGS says M7.0. Onsite camera view of the power plant with frequent updates here. (Looks okay at 9:21 PM EDT)
The roadmap for controlling and cleaning up the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station is evidently out. I don’t have direct access but NHK is reporting:
- Removal of the melted fuel rods may begin in 10 years (2021).
- The 2021 target date depends on timely development of new technology. I have not found a description of the required advances. It may or may not be credible.
- On-site buildings will be demolished and safely cleared away in “dozens of years”.
There is no statement about when the accident is expected to end. Yes, it is still continuing. I will update when I can find a link to the roadmap itself. Evidently they are looking at the problem from 30,000 feet in this exercise, and not focusing on the near-term challenges which remain:
- There are still daily uncontrolled releases of radiation to the environment.
- The reactors are not yet in “cold shutdown” (and probably will not be for some months).
- Reactor 3 is the most temperamental and is prone to temperature excursions when the input rate of cooling water is reduced.
On the plus side, the amount of new water that is being brought onsite has drastically decreased as the filtration system (with kilometers of piping) has come on line. This system is not yet working at its designed capacity, but it is working well enough to stop further accumulation of radioactive water in the basements and trenches. (Minus side: the amount of radioactive water onsite is not yet decreasing by any significant rate, and some is still leaking directly into the ground.)
Only a little more than one-third of the nuclear power plants in Japan are operating, and because of the lack of power to run assembly lines all at once, there are associated widespread labor practice changes (weekend shifts for everyone) that I imagine are very attractive to the CEOs.