A Confused Nuclear Cleanup Starts in Japan

As 500 workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks fanned out to decontaminate this village 20 miles from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, their confusion was apparent.

Dig five centimeters or 10 centimeters deep here?” a site supervisor asked his colleagues, pointing to a patch of radioactive topsoil to be removed. He then gestured across the village square toward the community center. “Isn’t that going to be demolished? Shall we decontaminate it or not?”

A day laborer wiping down windows at an abandoned school nearby shrugged at the work crew’s haphazard approach. “We are all amateurs,” he said. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”

Read the rest of the story: After Fukushima Disaster, a Confused Effort at Cleanup.

Revitalizing Japan: Building a disaster-resistant nation

The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami damaged many electric power stations. As a result, rolling blackouts and mandatory curbs on power consumption were put in place. The disaster highlighted the vulnerability of a society largely dependent on big power stations.

A small building stands in the middle of Tateshina Heights in Nagano Prefecture, 3,900 feet above sea level. The surrounding forests, where elegant resort homes are scattered, resound with echoes of the Kosaigawa river. The facility, which resembles a small warehouse, is a concrete water intake.

The intake channels water from the river to an underground pipe, which carries it down a steep 71-yard-long slope. The water provides power to the generator of the Tateshina power station in Chino City in the prefecture. The small-scale hydroelectric power plant generates up to 260 kilowatts and sells about 500 households’ worth of electricity to Chubu Electric Power Co.

Read the rest of the story: Revitalizing Japan: Building a disaster-resistant nation.