On Thursday, February 2, 2017, Tepco posted images recorded inside the thick steel-reinforced concrete pedestal that supports the reactor pressure vessel (RPV) of Fukushima Daiichi unit #2. A company spokesperson explained what the images visually indicated, and mentioned that radiation had caused “flickers” in the pictures which were used to estimate the possible radiation levels inside the pedestal. No pictures or video had ever been taken inside an F. Daiichi RPV pedestal before. The spokesperson said an estimated radiation level of 530 Sieverts per hour was located immediately inside the pipe used to insert the video recording device. Two deeper locations were estimated at 20 and 50 Sv/hr, respectively. Only the 530 Sv/hr report resonated with the Press.
The 530 Sv/hr announcement sparked a news media feeding frenzy with the Japanese Press, some international Press outlets, and the antinuclear internet demographic. The Asahi Shimbun exemplified the typical Japanese Press article by showing images provided by Tepco and mentioning the three radiation estimates inside the pedestal. But one Japanese outlet, the Japan Times, said the “blazing” radiation spurring outlets around the world to report that radiation levels at F. Daiichi were climbing… soaring to new heights. Yet, no such thing was happening
Since the accident, TEPCO has been keenly interested in determining the exact state of the melted fuel and the reactor pressure vessels in each of the three damaged units. This determination is a key issue for the cleanup of the site. As a result, TEPCO has been poking instruments and robots into the containment vessels closer and closer to the area of the damaged fuel, as well as conducting muon tomography of the reactor buildings to try to see whether there is still fuel inside the vessels. (Muon tomography can be described as a giant x-ray of the buildings using muon particles instead of x-rays and using complicated muon detection equipment.)
As one might expect, moving closer and closer to the damaged fuel itself is impossible for humans because of the radiation level in proximity to the fuel. This is exactly why TEPCO has been using various robots, snake cameras, and so forth to approach these areas. Recent examination at Unit 2 only has led to the crop of reports that have been causing concern in the last two weeks.
So the radiation would be dangerous is you climbed into the damaged Fukushima reactor and got deep into the containment vessels by following the robots and got very close to the damaged fuel rods. This would be an extremely difficult way to win a Darwin award.
The Darwin Awards are a tongue-in-cheek honor, originating in Usenet newsgroup discussions around 1985. They recognize individuals who have supposedly contributed to human evolution by selecting themselves out of the gene pool via death or sterilization by their own actions.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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