(Reuters) – The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima’s nuclear reactors have “died”: a subterranean “ice wall” around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.
Five years ago, one of the worst earthquakes in history triggered a 10-meter high tsunami that crashed into the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station causing multiple meltdowns. Nearly 19,000 people were killed or left missing and 160,000 lost their homes and livelihoods.
Today, the radiation at the Fukushima plant is still so powerful it has proven impossible to get into its bowels to find and remove the extremely dangerous blobs of melted fuel rods.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), has made some progress, such as removing hundreds of spent fuel rods in one damaged building. But the technology needed to establish the location of the melted fuel rods in the other three reactors at the plant has not been developed.
“It is extremely difficult to access the inside of the nuclear plant,” Naohiro Masuda, Tepco’s head of decommissioning said in an interview. “The biggest obstacle is the radiation.”
The fuel rods melted through their containment vessels in the reactors, and no one knows exactly where they are now. This part of the plant is so dangerous to humans, Tepco has been developing robots, which can swim under water and negotiate obstacles in damaged tunnels and piping to search for the melted fuel rods.
But as soon as they get close to the reactors, the radiation destroys their wiring and renders them useless, causing long delays, Masuda said.
Each robot has to be custom-built for each building. “It takes two years to develop a single-function robot,” Masuda said.
A former member of ISIS has revealed the extent to which the cooperation of the Turkish military allows the terrorist group, who now control large parts of Iraq and Syria, to travel through Turkish territory to reinforce fighters battling Kurdish forces.
A reluctant former communications technician working for Islamic State, now going by the pseudonym ‘Sherko Omer’, who managed to escape the group, told Newsweek that he travelled in a convoy of trucks as part of an ISIS unit from their stronghold in Raqqa, across Turkish border, through Turkey and then back across the border to attack Syrian Kurds in the city of Serekaniye in northern Syria in February.
“ISIS commanders told us to fear nothing at all because there was full cooperation with the Turks,” said Omer of crossing the border into Turkey, “and they reassured us that nothing will happen, especially when that is how they regularly travel from Raqqa and Aleppo to the Kurdish areas further northeast of Syria because it was impossible to travel through Syria as YPG [National Army of Syrian Kurdistan] controlled most parts of the Kurdish region.”