It has been five years since a powerful earthquake and resulting tsunami caused a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.
While a few towns closed after the disaster have reopened and some locals have returned, groundwater en route to the ocean, as well as nearby soils, remains highly contaminated with radioactive waste. Toxic water and soil that has been removed by the cleanup project’s 8,000 workers sits in a growing number of storage tanks on the property, several of which have leaked. Radiation levels are so high that robots sent to clean up the power plant itself are reportedly malfunctioning, their circuits fried. “Fukushima Dai-ichi is a complicated cleanup site,” said Dale Klein, a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who now consults for the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns the plant. “This will be a several-decades process of cleanup.”