Twelve years already. Japan marks Saturday the twelfth anniversary of the triple disaster of March 11, 2011, when one of the most violent earthquakes ever recorded caused a deadly tsunami, resulting in the Fukushima nuclear disaster. These events left nearly 18,500 dead or missing.
As every year, a minute of silence was observed in the country at 2:46 p.m. The time at which, 12 years earlier, an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 shook the entire archipelago. The cores of three of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant had melted, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.
More than 1,650 km2 of the department of Fukushima had been prohibited from access in the months following the disaster. Since then, intense decontamination work has reduced these uninhabitable areas to 337 km2.
What about contaminated water?
Japanese justice confirmed in mid-January the acquittal of three former officials of Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima power plant – the only individuals to be tried in criminal proceedings in the context of this disaster. They had been found not guilty of negligence for the 2011 crash.
The work to decontaminate and dismantle the plant is expected to take several more decades. One of the critical points is the management of more than one million tons of contaminated water accumulated on the site of the power station, coming from the rain, the ground water and the injections necessary to cool the cores of the reactors.
This water was treated but the tritium, a radionuclide which is only dangerous for humans in very high concentrated doses, could not be eliminated. The Japanese government has reconfirmed that it intends to start the very gradual discharge of this water into the Pacific Ocean this year. This controversial project has received favorable opinions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Japanese nuclear regulator.