Three years after an earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated a coastal region of Japan, the area's nuclear power plant remains a long way from cleanup.
Three reactor cores melted down at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, spewing radiation around the countryside and into the Pacific. Even now, periodic leaks allow radioactive water to escape into the environment.
No one knows how long it will take to clean up and shut down the plant. Tens of thousands of people are still prevented from returning to their homes in the exclusion zone, and technicians are trying to invent the systems that will render the area safe — or at least less hazardous.
LEARN MORE ABOUT JAPAN'S NUCLEAR MESS:
Inside the slow and dangerous clean up of the Fukushima nuclear crisis
A visit to the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant with Miles O'Brien. (PBS NewsHour)
• Three Years Later, A Harrowing Visit To Fukushima
Some critics say that TEPCO can't be trusted and that the world's largest nuclear accident is still waiting to happen at Fukushima, such as an accidental nuclear reaction that releases large amounts of harmful radiation into the air. TEPCO dismisses predictions like this as alarmist.
Japanese themselves are highly divided on the issue, just as they are about whether or not their country should continue to rely on nuclear power, which previously supplied up to a third of their electricity.
One thing that seems certain is that the work of cleaning up and shutting down the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant will go on for a long time. TEPCO predicts it could last 30 or 40 years. Others say that estimate is blindly optimistic. (Anthony Kuhn, NPR)
• After Fukushima, Utilities Prepare for Worst
If the experience at Fukushima taught anything, it was that if an earthquake or flood strikes, the reactors may have to cope with only what is on hand, at least for the first few hours.
But outside help may also be needed. Going up soon at a building near the FedEx hub in Memphis, and at a site near an airport in Phoenix, are industry depots, each with five "kits" including pumps, hoses and other emergency gear, 20 truck trailers comprising a single kit, deliverable to any reactor in the country within 24 hours.
The whole industry, despite using vastly different reactor designs, has devised a standard for hose fittings, pump types and other basic backup equipment.
It is an unusual level of coordination for a fragmented industry. (New York Times)
• Near Fukushima, a Generation of Kids Who Don't Play Outside
This week marks three years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Shortly after the power plant's triple meltdown (which caused radiation to seep into the land and sea, leading Japan's government to establish a 19-mile "no-go zone"), officials in the city of Koriyama, about a 2-hour drive from the power plant, recommended limiting the amount of time children spend outside each day.
The youngest children, up to age two, were encouraged to spend no more than 15 minutes outside per day, while 3- to 5-year-olds were told to spend no more than half an hour. Last October, these limits were lifted, but according to Reuters, that doesn't mean the city's playgrounds (equipped with Geiger counters) are busy again.
Thanks to a combination of formed habits and concerned parents, Kindergartens and nursery schools are still keeping their children inside, leading to a different range of health issues. (Atlantic Cities)