Yes, the fukushima power plant is still posing a large threat to a lot of the environment and those living in it. Updates on the plant are posted daily online. Currently, it is being revealed that the severity level of the leak has changed from a 5 to a 7. The link below shows a graph that explains the severity levels in more detail.
Japan is actually thinking of reactivating its nuclear reactors at Fukushima, even though they are still emitting radiation. If the plant is still emitting radiation, then yes, it is still hurting the environment. In fact, in May, the radiation levels in the Pacific near Fukushima were up to 1,000 times normal levels. Though the level could have dropped by now, the levels of radiation would still be too high to be safe.
Although authorities have stabilised the Fukushma power plant, there is still the risk of approximately 100,000 tonnes of radioactive water leaking into the ocean. There are plans to de-radiate the water in the power plant’s storage tanks at a rate of 12,000 tonnes per day, which includes 720 tonnes of salt water and 480 tonnes of fresh water. A leak caused by a break in a plastic pipe has halted the water decontamination process as of yesterday.
Yes, the Fukushima plant is still hurting the environment. The Japanese Government, along with the International atomic energy community is working on cleaning the water and the areas around the nuclear plant, in order to ensure that everything is cleaned properly.
The article that I have cited has a log of how the Fukushima plant is doing so far.
To add to prenda11 and krich11’s answers, I think a basic understanding of how radiation works would help in grasping the severity of this disaster, and why it should continue to be a concern for many years to come. First of all, nuclear power plants as we know it run on energy produced by what is known as nuclear fission. The energy exerted during nuclear fission comes from nuclear elements (some of which are man-made) which contain unstable atoms, that change or disintegrate into completely new atoms through the process of radioactive decay (because essentially this process breaks down the radioactive element giving off the radiation). Because atoms are so tightly held together, the energy released when they break apart can be extremely powerful, emitting harmful radioactive waves. Some elements are capable of doing this more than others. Two of the most radioactive elements are uranium and plutonium. Uranium 235 (aka U-235), is the most common form of uranium used in nuclear fission reactions. It is manually extracted from naturally occuring uranium, which is a non-renewable element found in rocks all over the world. Plutonium is also extremely radioactive (actually more toxic than uranium), and is created in nuclear power plants as a byproduct of U-235’s radioactive decay. Some countries, like Japan, extract the plutonium and use it as energy (the United States does not allow plutonium to be used as a fuel). The most common forms of Plutonium in nuclear reactors is PU-239, and PU-241. PU-239 has a half life of 24,000 years and PU-241 has a half life of 14.4 years. U-235 has a half-life of over 700 million years (a half-life being the amount of time it takes the radioactive substance to lose half of its radioactive strength). Because the amount of energy emitted from the radioactive decay from these elements is extremely powerful, it is therefore extremely effective as a power source. However, the stakes are dire in order to isolate these elements – especially uranium. Spent fuel rods from U-235 (which remain radioactive but no longer have enough fuel to be energy efficient) must be kept cool in order to control the heat emitted from the nuclear fission energy it continues to emit; if the heat is not controlled, it will build up to a point where the nuclear fission reactions highten to the point of explosion, thus releasing harmful uranium particles into the environment. While more toxic, plutonium is less dramatic in its radioactive decay: it is disposed of by buring it deep into the ground. However, the fuel rods at Japan’s Fukushima plant were made up of not just uranium, but plutonium as well as a whole slew of other toxic substances such as strontium. These all have harmful effects on the environment. What makes the Fukushima disaster so enormously bad is the fact that high traces of these harmful elements have been found in the soil and groundwater around the plant. Off-the-chart levels were also found in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Japan. The United Nation’s nuclear branch – the International Atomic Energy Agency – declared that radiation levels were much worse and more expansive than initially reported by Japanese officials, rendering much of the land surrounding the plant uninhabitable. What is also bad is that the technology doesn’t exist for this type of disaster – nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the ground in and around the damaged facilities. Without being able to adequately clean up the damage, this will continue to be a threat to the environment and all living things. For more information, please refer to the links attached.
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