Fukushima Five Years Later: "The Fuel Rods Melted Through Containment And Nobody Knows Where They Are Now"

Tyler Durden's picture

Today, Japan marks the fifth anniversary of the tragic and catastrophic meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast coast of Japan, killing 20,000 people. Another 160,000 then fled the radiation in Fukushima. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and according to some it would be far worse, if the Japanese government did not cover up the true severity of the devastation.

At least 100,000 people from the region have not yet returned to their homes. A full cleanup of the site is expected to take at least 40 years. Representative of the families of the victims spoke during Friday’s memorial ceremony in Tokyo. This is what Kuniyuki Sakuma, a former resident of Fukushima Province said:

For those who remain, we are seized with anxieties and uncertainties that are beyond words. We spend life away from our homes. Families are divided and scattered. As our experiences continue into another year, we wonder: 'When will we be able to return to our homes? Will a day come when our families are united again?'


There are many problems in areas affected by the disaster, such as high radiation levels in parts of Fukushima Prefecture that need to be overcome. Even so, as a representative of the families that survived the disaster, I make a vow once more to the souls and spirits of the victims of the great disaster; I vow that we will make the utmost efforts to continue to promote the recovery and reconstruction of our hometowns.

Sadly, the 2011 disaster will be repeated. After the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, Japan was flooded with massive anti-nuclear protests which led to a four-year nationwide moratorium on nuclear plants. The moratorium was lifted, despite sweeping opposition, last August and nuclear plants are being restarted.

Meanwhile, while we await more tragedy out of the demographically-doomed nation, this is what Fukushima's ground zero looks like five years later. As Reuters sums it up best,  "no place for man, or robot."

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 know 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-metre 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 has made some progress, such as removing hundreds of spent fuel roads 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. 


Tepco, which was fiercely criticized for its handling of the disaster, says conditions at the Fukushima power station, site of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in Ukraine 30 years ago, have improved dramatically. Radiation levels in many places at the site are now as low as those in Tokyo.

More than 8,000 workers are at the plant at any one time, according to officials on a recent tour. Traffic is constant as they spread across the site, removing debris, building storage tanks, laying piping and preparing to dismantle parts of the plant.

Much of the work involves pumping a steady torrent of water into the wrecked and highly radiated reactors to cool them down. Afterward, the radiated water is then pumped out of the plant and stored in tanks that are proliferating around the site.

What to do with the nearly million tonnes of radioactive water is one of the biggest challenges, said Akira Ono, the site manager. Ono said he is “deeply worried” the storage tanks will leak radioactive water in the sea - as they have done several times before - prompting strong criticism for the government.

The utility has so far failed to get the backing of local fishermen to release water it has treated into the ocean.

Ono estimates that Tepco has completed around 10 percent of the work to clear the site up - the decommissioning process could take 30 to 40 years. But until the company locates the fuel, it won’t be able to assess progress and final costs, experts say.

The much touted use of X-ray like muon rays has yielded little information about the location of the melted fuel and the last robot inserted into one of the reactors sent only grainy images before breaking down.


Tepco is building the world’s biggest ice wall to keep  groundwater from flowing into the basements of the damaged reactors and getting contaminated.

First suggested in 2013 and strongly backed by the government, the wall was completed in February, after months of delays and questions surrounding its effectiveness. Later this year, Tepco plans to pump water into the wall - which looks a bit like the piping behind a refrigerator - to start the freezing process.

Stopping the ground water intrusion into the plant is critical, said Arnie Gunderson, a former nuclear engineer.

“The reactors continue to bleed radiation into the ground water and thence into the Pacific Ocean,” Gunderson said. "When Tepco finally stops the groundwater, that will be the end of the beginning.”

While he would not rule out the possibility that small amounts of radiation are reaching the ocean, Masuda, the head of decommissioning, said the leaks have ended after the company built a wall along the shoreline near the reactors whose depth goes to below the seabed.

“I am not about to say that it is absolutely zero, but because of this wall the amount of release has dramatically dropped,” he said.

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KuriousKat's picture

Seems like you will need a separate nuclear reactor dedicated just to keep the cryo tanks cold..

RafterManFMJ's picture

They're always the last place you look! Please not to worry, Tepco!

DownWithYogaPants's picture

Japan is not "demographically doomed" 

......they are central banker doomed.  If it weren't for the severe allergy that governments and central banks have to deflation there would not be an issue.

monk27's picture

They are doomed from several points of view: financially, demographically, pollution wise (Fuku effects). However, most of their doom is rooted in the fact that they trust their representatives and officials too much. Which means that they are doomed because they are dumb... also known as natural selection !

knukles's picture

The FBI and NSA say that they were stolen by ISIL (or whoeverthefuck they're called anymore) and represent a clear and present danger so we must invade  (fill in the blank) immediately to stop Armageddon.
Anne Coulter says that they desperately need to be found to include in Mooch's school lunch programs as eating radioactive crap is Good For You.
The president says that they're good if they'll help light the course on the dark days ahead and thus, they won't be dark but glowing bright.
Hillary has taken 17 separate positions on the situation all in conflict with one another and refuses to answer any questions pertaining thereto.
The Donald says I toldja so!
Jerry Brown says that Oakland was declared a nuclear free zone when he was mayor so they can't be there.
John Boehner says that he'll vote against anything the president wants until its time to vote and then it'll be OK
That help?
I didn't think so either.

El Oregonian's picture

I'm pretty sure those Reactor Rods are simmering right next to hell itself. Maybe we can get Soros and the Alinsky-ites to send up a progress report, and the where-abouts of those Rods, once they've reached their final destination...

Paveway IV's picture

"...While he would not rule out the possibility that small amounts of radiation are reaching the ocean, Masuda, the head of decommissioning, said the leaks have ended after the company built a wall along the shoreline near the reactors whose depth goes to below the seabed. “I am not about to say that it is absolutely zero, but because of this wall the amount of release has dramatically dropped,” he said..."

Absolute bullshit. Let's have a little geology refresher, Decommissioning Genius Masuda:

Fukushima Daiichi was built on the mouth of an ancient river that drained the aquifer under the Abukuma Plateau directly behind the plant. That aquifer is constantly recharged by the Abukuma mountains on the other side of the plateau. All the sediment layers under the Abukuma Plateau slant towards the coast, therefore the Abukuma aquifer is constantly draining towards the sea.

Just like almost everywhere else in mountainous Japan, subsurface water flow continues to follow seaward-slanted sedimentary layers underneath and well beyond the actual surface coastline. It does not empty right on the coastline at the surface unless there's a spring there (and there isn't - or wasn't). The subsurface water emerges hundreds, maybe thousands of meters offshore from freshwater springs on the porous seabed in the 10 or 20 meters deep water that far out. It's pushed out of the seabed because there's a twenty kilometer long aquifer behind it that slants upwards to a height of two kilometers back the the Abukuma Mountains.

So even though water is not flowing as fast as it would in a surface river, the ancient underground river continues to flow through all the sedimentary layers under the plant and empties out on the seabed well offshore. It's done that for the last million years or so. That underground river is split between the various sedimentary layers, the lowest being at least two HUNDRED meters deep underneath the plant where the original river bottom existed at one time.

Icewall 'solution' to surround all four reactors and turbine buildings - Yay!

The first section of the ice wall was built, and promptly failed because: 1) it was only 30m deep, not anywhere near the full 200m depth of the groundwater, 2) they couldn't freeze the wall because of the sediment characteristics, and 3) the wall was not built all the way to the surface, so the groundwater pushed up and over it creating radioactive geysers and mud volcanos. They decided they needed to dig a bigger trench and toss in better fill so the damn thing would actually freeze. And they're going to pave the surface so you can't see the radioactive geysers (but the groundwater will still 'secretly' overtop the wall).

So a reasonable question to ask is why TEPCO thinks an ice dam built 170m above the ancient riverbed on porous sediment and not quite to the surface is going to successfully hold back groundwater that originates from 20 km behind it and 2 km high. Since you're essentially building a giant, square donut around the plant and pumping the water out, wouldn't more groundwater just push up through the middle? And on it's way up, it will be gushing past three really, really radioactive cores (or what's left of them)? And that now-highly-radioactive water is going to come bubbling up through the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings in the donut hole - the very buildings you're trying to pump out?

The Yakuza are running out of homeless meat to send to the plant as remediators, so frying the ones you have left with your newly-created radioactive hot springs probably isn't the smartest thing to do. What knucklehead-san came up with this scheme? 

Here's a tip: try digging those damn molten cores out from underneath the reactor buildings and quit trying to hold back the Abukuma aquifer with a fucking ice donut - it won't work. Yeah, I know it's kind of dangerous. Maybe you should have though about that before you built your reactors below sea level and beneath the water table of an ancient riverbed. The only thing you could have done even stupider than that is to build it on top of a known fault line. Oh, wait... you did. Fuckers...

hedgeless_horseman's picture



Excellent comment, Paveway. Thank you for that reality check.

Mr. Universe's picture

...and yet we never hear this from the MSM, strange isn't it?

Stuck on Zero's picture

Purchase a used well drilling rig capable of slant drilling for $250K. Drill from 100m away at a slant till you locate the core. Fire all the fuckups running that operation.

0b1knob's picture

Alright I admit it.  I HAVE THE FUEL RODS.

They melted completely trough the earth an came up in my garden next to the tomato plants. 

Shad_ow's picture

Is that you Michelle Obama?  If so, I approve this message.

Manthong's picture

My guess is that they will come out somewhere near southern Chile.

.. "the Chile Syndrome"


Young Buckethead's picture

'Someone' in charge of the Federal school lunch program has been purchasing radioactive fish, such as salmon, for school lunches. This is radioactive fish that the fishing industry isn't selling to anyone else, either through awareness of the radiation problem, or the fish is covered with pus-filled blisters. One order was 200 million servings worth. A backdoor bailout of the dying Pacific fishing industries, and an intentional program to give cancers to tens of millions of poor children.

And when I say 'poor' children, there are many school districts nationwide that are mandating ALL children eat school meals, regardless of parental income. So all these children - who are not so 'poor' - will be getting radioactive fish, too.

But not any children in expensive private schools...

mrdenis's picture

Washington DC I hope 

Young Buckethead's picture

Here's a reality check:

'Fukushima Equals 3,000 Billion Lethal Doses'

“Dr Paolo Scampa, a widely know EU Physicist, single handedly popularized the easily understood Lethal Doses concept. “Lethal Doses” is a world wide, well understood idea that strips Physics bare and offers a brilliant, understandable explanation for all the physics gobbledygook Intelligence agencies and their respective governments use to disguise the brutal truths of the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster."

"Three thousand billion (3,000,000,000,000) Lethal Doses of Radiation means there are 429 Lethal Doses chasing each and every one of us on the planet, to put it in a nutshell. This is up from about 70 Billion Lethal Doses March 23, 2011. It is getting worse everyday without any intervention by the US and the other nuclear powers….”

"Note that the lethality of radioactive reactor cores goes up the first 250,000 years they are out of the reactor – not down."


Stuck on Zero's picture

There are an infinite number of lethal doses of seawater. Remember, you can recycle.

Urban Roman's picture

The good news is that strontium and cesium form alkali when they burn, and therefore they have neutralized some carbonate from the seawater of the Pacific.

So it's all good, see! TEPCo is combating global warming!

Bay Area Guy's picture

Pave way, I can't give you enough thumbs up for your comment. Excellent analysis.

Sorry_about_Dresden's picture


Radiation Half-life(years) GI          absorption Notes Strontium-90/yttrium-90 ? 28 years 30%   Caesium-137 ?,? 30 years 100%   Promethium-147 ? 2.6 years 0.01%   Cerium-144 ?,? 285 days 0.01%   Ruthenium-106/rhodium-106 ?,? 1.0 years 0.03%   Zirconium-95 ?,? 65 days 0.01%   Strontium-89 ? 51 days 30%   Ruthenium-103 ?,? 39.7 days 0.03%   Niobium-95 ?,? 35 days 0.01%   Cerium-141 ?,? 33 days 0.01%   Barium-140/lanthanum-140 ?,? 12.8 days 5%   Iodine-131 ?,? 8.05 days 100%   Tritium ? 13 years


No worries. this stuff should be harmless in a few thousand years.

Young Buckethead's picture

Plutonium - the deadliest particle known to man, spread across the planet in the jetstream and oceans - 24,000 year half-life. This will stretch to a million years as it decays into other, almost as deadly - if not more deadly - isotopes.

Enriched uranium - the bulk of what was aerosolized to the Earth's atmosphere - 703 million years. This will stretch to billions of years before it even remotely becomes harmless.

How convenient you left out the vast bulk of the thousands of tons of radioactive material in nuclear power plants.

Got kids or grandkids? Hug them tight, knowing you helped give them cancer.

Red Fred's picture

It may be a possible to "dam" the underground river before the water flows through underneath the plant, and construct an alternate rout for the watar to the sea, bypassing the nuclear plant.

Young Buckethead's picture

No. It costs too much, according to TEPCO's accountants.

Good idea, though.

Infnordz's picture

Excluding any underground water layer(s) by daming and diversion may not be that easy, it may even be helping by keep the site cooler, moderating the radiation and water pressure may ironically be reducing radioactive water leakage below ground.

I wonder if it may be feasible and safer to just entomb the below ground level bits of the reactors with a binding, heat conductive material, loaded with neutron moderators (e.g. glass, concrete, or ceramic).  The current use of non-recyled water seems quite desperately stupid, unsustainable and blatantly polluting, I also wonder if there is a literal water corrosion time bomb with support structures!

ebworthen's picture

The radioactive fuel rods are in the Pacific Ocean poisoning it and all within and on their way to the Pacific Coast of the U.S.

Next question?  (don't eat Pacific Salmon or Oysters....yes, I'm crying silently...).

newworldorder's picture

You may wish to stay away from Pacific Tuna and any other type of fish found in the Pacific. Eventually the contamination will reach all Oceans on the planet. 


SilverDOG's picture

I do not eat any Pacific anything, unless from south of the equator, which means zero Pacific consumption unless I am there again.

Land or sea, Asia or W coast USA is Fuku'ed.
Never mind one should not eat tuna due to mercury content and support of extinction of the fish.

I am shocked the red salmon I bough cases of directly after Fuku meltdown price almost tripled. Almost tripled shortly after contamination struck west coast in 2012.

But wait, the price has decreased by 1/3. Top quality canned red salmon price declining? All is safe now right, it must be.
No way in hades will I buy post 2012 canned W. Coast ANYTHING.

Technically I should not have 4 years ago. PNW fish are blown full of everything from caffeine & coke, to pharmas and mercury.

Can not find pacific coast S. American canned mackerel cases or any other replacement of cold water fish. Not since 2013 stateside & only found sardines south of equator in 2014. Europe remains sardine productive.

Would try canning the macks here on the east coast. However, due to ocean temp increase( not called warming) the macks are not coming in close to shoreline here. Neither are the shrimp, smelt, Br trout, stripers, and all "bait" fish too.

Side note: No ice fishing this year in this state(freshwater). I have neither heard nor seen such as this, ever. Yes some went out and fished. Some died there and some just stayed home due to extensive risk involved.
Again, never mind my commercial diving(ocean)records showing temp this year 10 f above the temps I worked in through the 90's.

Move along people, move along and march unto your song.

But but but, but but, but but but, but but...

Young Buckethead's picture

Forget south of the equator being safe for now:

"Marine researchers have found more than 100 dead sea lions -- most of them newborns -- washed ashore along a relatively small peninsula in northern Chile over the past three months, part of a more widespread die-off being observed elsewhere on South America's Pacific coast."


The entire Pacific Ocean is a radioactive toilet.

SilverDOG's picture

This supports absence of food, for the sea lions as damaged beyond starvation has not been shown. Ocean current exchange between N. and S. hemispheres is extremely limited, extremely.
The depletion of fish on and off of the Chile coast is well documented.
My personal experience 2011-2012 calling major fishing companies world wide in regards to cold water fish - "We ain't got none left", either by law or absence thereof.

One may purchase mackerel from Thailand area, not cold water, and it's Fuku'ed. However mackerel remain available there.
Never mind in 2011-12 I pulled can of available brands from shelves or online for taste tests (cans dated pre FUKU). Every brand canned or caught in asia went to black lab Sally. Sorry Asia mackerel, just not New England cold water oil fish enough.

Wile-E-Coyote's picture

"Radiation levels in many places at the site are now as low as those in Tokyo."

Now, that is a statement that may take some looking into. Why doesn't it fill me with confidence?

Young Buckethead's picture

Tokyo, according to previous nuclear contamination standards, should be evacuated and bulldozed flat 50 yards deep, with everything buried in a nuclear hazardous waste repository.

But raise the contamination standards, and everything is OK!

'Japan Radioactive Iodine 131 In Sewage Sludge Levels Spiking Up March 2011 To Present Day'


I-1312 is a short-lived isotope. It indicates ongoing fissioning from the underground cores.

Himins's picture

If it is a true statement, well Tokeyo can turn their lights out because I'm certain that the place is glowing plenty bright.

Young Buckethead's picture

That's exactly what the radiation-sensing satellites show. But we'll never see those pics.

dogfish's picture

Thank you Knukles for bringing us up to date,it's all to confusing.

zeronetwork's picture

What an amazing period in history I'm born. Saw socialism defeated, saw communism turning into capitalism, saw  japan's gloom and doom, rise and fall of euro and will see capitalism crumbling.

zippedydoodah's picture

Boy, you aint seen nuffin yet!


TheReplacement's picture

Where exactly did you see capitalism?  I wish to go there and see it for once myself.

-An American

dchang0's picture

I agree--everyone's going to blame capitalism like Marx did, but the truth is that the failing economic systems are all command economies that are widely called capitalism.

The real causes are cronyism (not crony capitalism) and corporatism, not true capitalism.

HARM's picture

If you find a real world example of this mythological "True Capitalism (TM)" we've all heard rumors about, please let us know. Haven't seen it in history and definitely don't see it now.


Of course, one might conclude that a highly idealized "pure" capitalism --much like unicorns-- does not actually exist. And that there's a reason why it's called CAPITALism, and not, say LABORism (hint: it's a rigged system where having lots of capital gives you an advantage labor does not have).

ImmodestExtant's picture

That's because pure capitalism is pure BS.

Falconsixone's picture

Have you seen my socks zeronetwork?

Young Buckethead's picture

What an amazing period in history I'm born.

Yes, we are witness to the beginning of the end of all life on this planet.

There will be no children of any species anywhere on this Earth within 200 years.

Fukushima is only the beginning. The US alone has 30+ more GE Mk 1 and 2 NPP's ready to blow.

Within 100 years, they will all be exposed to atmosphere.

The real danger is the Spent Fuel Pools, especially the Common Spent Fuel Pools. Lose water and the rods self-ignite.

Decades worth of rods in giant swimming pools, completely dependent on running water and no cracks in the cement underneath.

How long do swimming pools last in earthquakes? And fracking is causing earthquakes in many areas where they have previously built NPP's. Nothing more than big swimming pools...

Ace006's picture

Basically sound observation except it isn't capitalism that's crumbling. 

Capitalism (free markets, private property, rule of law) harnesses human self interest, human ingenuity, and resources in an efficient and productive manner. 

What is crumbling is the post-1900 infatuation with socialism (legal theft, subsidization of sloth, disguising of greed as virtue) and progressivism (contemptible hubris rejecting all human experience and all institutions mediating state power plus reckless tinkering with human lives per Fukushima-style fiscal and monetary manipulation, mass uncontrolled immigration, feminism, sanctification of abortion and sexual excess, multiculturalism, the sick worship of the foreigner, a race to the cultural bottom culturally, homosexualization, etc.) shored up by dirigisme (communism, fascism, democratic socialism, and kabuki dollar democracy a la the U.S.).

AGuy's picture

Where's Radiological Waldo?


thetruthhurts's picture

The rods are melting their way to the center of the earth.....

MalteseFalcon's picture

The rods were blown to aerosol bits.  The rods are strewn all over Japan, the Pacific ocean and into the atomosphere.

Keyser's picture

Either that or they are slowing boring a hole through the center of the earth and will pop out somewhere near Wheeling, WV... 

general ambivalent's picture

Better neon greenish-red than dead.

I need more asshats's picture

Come out Godzilla! Show yourself. Your MOX'd DNA has given you unmeasurable strength and now it's time for you to rule the earth.