The ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has been back in the news lately following record high readings at the reactor site. Radiation levels were a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, the highest recorded since the triple core meltdown in March 2011.
But upon further examination, the story has been misreported, in part due to mistranslation. In fact, according to Nancy Foust of SimplyInfo.org, interviewed on Nuclear Hotseat, there was no spike. High readings were in expected locations that TEPCO was only able to access recently. Therefore, the reading became evident because workers were getting closer to the melted fuel in more dangerous parts of the facility. In other words, it’s not a new hot mess, just the same hot mess it’s always been, pretty much from the beginning. The good news is nothing has changed. The bad news is – nothing has changed.
The confusion was initially caused by a translation error that SimplyInfo.org thinks occurred between the Kyodo News and Japan Times. Since this happened, Foust and her group have been trying to get news sources to correct the stories, with limited success.
The elevated radiation levels are inside containment (good news) in ruined unit 2 and were discovered using a camera, not proper radiation monitors. Therefore, the high reading may not be reliable since it is an estimate based on interference data with the camera. TEPCO is planning on sending in a robot properly equipped with radiation detectors to take a reliable reading. Although no date has been given, TEPCO indicates it expects to deploy the robot within 30 days or so.
Foust theorizes that the bulk of spent fuel is probably right below the reactor vessel burned into the concrete below. No one knows if fuel has gone into the ground water below that.