FUKUSHIMA – In the main control room for the crippled Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, time seems to have stood still.
That was the impression reported Thursday by the first journalists to enter the facility since the 2011 nuclear meltdowns there.
The control room’s interior is reported to have been left almost untouched since the disaster. Handwriting was found on the wall near an instrument used to measure water levels within the No. 3 reactor, hinting at the circumstances faced by some 10 workers who were there at the time of the crisis.
“We don’t write (on the wall) in a normal situation, so it indicates that it was an emergency,” said an official at the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.
The nuclear crisis was triggered by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami that flooded the facility, located on the Pacific coast, on March 11, 2011.
The No. 3 reactor suffered a fuel meltdown and a hydrogen explosion, while the No. 4 reactor, which did not have nuclear fuel inside, also exploded due to a hydrogen inflow from the nearby reactor.
In February 2014, Tepco allowed the media to view the control room for the Nos. 1 and 2 reactors, which also suffered meltdowns, but had kept the control room for the Nos. 3 and 4 closed due to high levels of radiation in the area.
Radiation levels inside the control room for Nos. 3 and 4, the floor of which is now covered by plastic sheeting, was 6 microsieverts per hour. In contrast, readings in Tokyo’s Shinjuku Ward on Sunday were 0.037 microsievert per hour. The control room, which now has only a few lights, is no longer in use as its functions have been transferred to a quake-resistant building.
Following the crisis, which equaled the severity of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, some 160,000 people were evacuated. More than 40,000 remained displaced as of late September.