But there’s still a no-go area where 150,000 people used to live. There’s still at least several decades of work ahead decommissioning the devastated plant. And the wider long-term effects are still incalculable.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company originally estimated that dismantling the plant would cost about £16million. Last week the Japanese government revised that figure to £82billion – plus another £20bn to remove radioactive topsoil, trees and buildings.
As soon as those figures were released, experts were warning that they were still over-optimistic. But all this playing with numbers is really just evidence of our obsession with money ahead of anything that actually matters.
As science journalist Madhusree Mukerjee says: “I find it hard to believe that this plant can be cleaned up at all, no matter how much they spend on it.
“The molten cores will be too dangerous to get near to for half a century at least. Plus, Japan has no repository for high-level nuclear waste, and given the earthquake danger, it is unlikely to ever have one.
“All that contaminated topsoil – where will they put it? It just sits around in plastic bags and gets dispersed again each time there is a typhoon.”
Meanwhile, closer to home, there’s this news, which was not as widely published as it might have been.
Since 2000, convoys carrying nuclear weapons along UK roads have had 180 “mishaps and incidents”, including collisions, breakdowns and brake failures.
Not a lot of people know that. The fact that you now do is just one reason to be grateful for the Freedom of Information Act.
You may think I’m being ignorant or ingenuous here in linking a story about nuclear power with one about nuclear weapons – but I’m not. The two are inextricably linked, and not just by the dangers that apply to both.
There is really no plausible reason to invest in nuclear energy other than its covert role in making material for weapons. Which is why if we’re to calculate the true cost of Trident renewal, we should also factor in the enormous sums the government seems willing to pour into Hinkley, Bradwell and Sizewell.
Though that, of course, is to repeat that potentially catastrophic error of trying to put a cash value on things too big and dangerous to be measured in terms of mere finance.