Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Japan's nuclear crisis may be even worse than we think

In the weeks since the tsunami, Japan has continued to battle adverse conditions at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant. But as the American attention span wanes, most news agencies are ready to move on. But it appears that the danger at the plant is not decreasing, and may actually be on the rise. A new NRC report paints a dire picture of plant perhaps only a few steps away from another major leak or meltdown risk.

The document also suggests that fragments or particles of nuclear fuel from spent fuel pools above the reactors were blown “up to one mile from the units,” and that pieces of highly radioactive material fell between two units and had to be “bulldozed over,” presumably to protect workers at the site. The ejection of nuclear material, which may have occurred during one of the earlier hydrogen explosions, may indicate more extensive damage to the extremely radioactive pools than previously disclosed...

The assessment provides graphic new detail on the conditions of the damaged cores in reactors 1, 2 and 3. Because slumping fuel and salt from seawater that had been used as a coolant is probably blocking circulation pathways, the water flow in No. 1 “is severely restricted and likely blocked.” Inside the core itself, “there is likely no water level,” the assessment says, adding that as a result, “it is difficult to determine how much cooling is getting to the fuel.” Similar problems exist in No. 2 and No. 3, although the blockage is probably less severe, the assessment says.

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