Five years ago a powerful earthquake and a following tsunani struck Japan's northeastern coast, killing 19000 people. The disaster led to the meltdown of three nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
5 years later, cleanup work at the reactor site is still underway . Although many contaminated buildings have been cleared and radiation is low it will take decades to restore the area completely.
Residents have been able to return to nearby villages but about 100 000 former citizens of Fukushima cannot come back yet. Thousands are still living in temporary housing provided by the government.
One of the problems that Tepco, the energy company that operates Fukushima, faces is water. Groundwater from the nearby mountains continues to flow through the contaminated site. Filters must clean the water and remove radiation. At the moment, workers are building a wall around the nuclear complex to prevent rain and ground water from getting into the basement of surrounding houses. Environmentalists are worried that radioactive water may flow into the ocean and affect fish population.
Another problem is the nuclear fuel which melted down. The fuel rods inside the reactor are still in place, however, authorities do not want to build a concrete containment , similar to the one that was built in Chernobyl 30 years ago.
Everyday life in and around the nuclear site is still dangerous. Radiation levels are constantly monitored and when workers are exposed to too much radiation they have to stop working. Robots are sent into the reactor core to research the area and make videos.
The worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl hit Japan's economy severely. It has cost the country over $200 billion to compensate its loss of nuclear energy through fossil fuels. The total cost of cleanup work is expected to run to an additional $200 billion.
Japan's energy authorities do not seem to want to give up nuclear energy completely. After all of the country's reactors had been shut down after the disaster, three have been started again .