Journalists allowed up-close look at efforts to dismantle Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant

Here and Now

Foreign journalists were allowed into the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant recently, for the the first time since the disaster there nearly a year ago.

They donned protective clothing and masks necessary to document the work of some 3,000 people who are working around the clock to make the plant safe again.

BBC correspondent Roland Buerk talked to several workers who recall the feeling that they had to flee when the disaster was unfolding last March.

Now, there’s a 20-kilometer exclusion zone around the plant, which narrowly avoided total disaster, a recent report found.

“Fields are overgrown,” Buerk said. “As we get closer to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the source of the fears of the Japanese people for nearly a year now, the radiation levels are rising steadily.”

Inside the control center of the plant, some 100 people work, monitoring temperatures, pressure-levels and, of course, radiation, as the plant is being put out of commission.

“On the wall, there are posters pinned up with hand-written message of support. There’s a Japanese flag as well,” Buerk said.

The goal, workers say, is to prevent radioactive gases from being released further.

The improvement in the situation is noticeable. Journalists, in full protective suits, are allowed within about 200 meters of the reactors that are inside what were once reactor buildings and are now more like skeletons.

“Above them, red and white cranes. Inside the building skeletons, you can see people working in white suits,” Buerk said. “It’s so radioactive, we’re only allowed to stay for five minutes.”

The ultimate goal is to remove the nuclear fuel from the Fukushima reactors and dismantle it. But don’t expect that to happen any time soon.

Japan’s government warns that could take up to 40 years.

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