Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been back in the news in recent weeks, as radioactive water has leaked from tanks and contaminated groundwater has seeped through the soil toward the sea. TEPCO, the utility that owns the plant, has just released a video to explain this bad news, and to combat widespread rumors and misinformation.
As I learned while discussing the Fukushima situation on a public radio talk show, KQED's Forum, there's a huge amount of paranoia regarding the recent water leaks. The listeners of that San Francisco-based show called in to ask whether they could eat Pacific fish, and did not seem reassured when I and the other guests explained that high levels of radiation have only been found in bottom-feeding fish living near the coast of Fukushima prefecture.
I did my best to make clear that the Fukushima nuclear disaster poses little threat to San Francisco grocery shoppers, but that it is still inflicting profound hardships on the residents of Fukushima prefecture. More than 100,000 residents had to flee their homes in the first days of the accident, and the towns near the plant are still too contaminated to be inhabitable.
The 20-minute video above begins by explaining the nuclear accident of March 2011, then goes on to discuss the decommissioning plan for the plant (which is expected to take 40 years in total), as well as TEPCO's attempts to improve its water storage and decontamination systems.
Eliza Strickland is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum, where she covers AI, biomedical engineering, and other topics. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.