Ten years ago this month, 22,000 Japanese citizens died in a huge tsunami that also caused the second-worst nuclear accident in history at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power facility. Because I know about nuclear safety, I wrote a total of four columns about the accident in the month that followed. You can read them in order here, here, here and here.

When I wrote within hours of the accident that none of the 11 reactors would ever operate again, I was the sole voice on the planet saying so out loud. Read the comments and you’ll see I took some flak for that, but 10 years later I was right. None of the 11 reactors will ever run again and it will take at least another 30 years to clean up the site.

I know what I am writing about when it comes to this subject.

I avoided writing again about Fukushima Daiichi because it seemed so pointless. As two of the columns mentioned, I tried to help at the time, but was ignored. With 20+ years of doing business in Japan, I still couldn’t break through the cultural barrier that protects big Japanese companies from being held responsible for their actions.

The long-term technical problem at Fukushima Daiichi 10 years ago and today is the same — getting rid of contaminated cooling water. Billions of gallons of radioactive water are still being held in thousands of tanks on the site — tanks that we are now told will overflow in 2022. The only answer the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has for this is to begin controlled releases of radioactive water into the sea. That in itself is a misnomer since water releases have been happening throughout. It’s just the worst water that is being stored.

I presented an idea a decade ago for processing that radioactive water using microbial mats literally grown on the site for that purpose. It’s in one of the columns. TEPCO ignored me, preferring French technology at the time that was much more complex, expensive, and failed almost immediately. 

The U.S. Department of State made some attempt to help me break through, but they, too, were ignored. 

That cheap method of processing the water could still be done, but it probably won’t be. And that’s why, after 20 years doing business in Japan, I walked away in 2011. I’ve never been back…

Now a little housekeeping. My 2021 prediction columns are finished for now. My next column will be, believe it or not, a book review, which is something I don’t do very often but this book is important. And the column after that will be my long awaited Mineserver update. 

Save your ammo for that one.