Japan has finally conceded it has lost the battle to contain radiation at four of its crippled reactors and they will be closed down and be entombed in concrete
The battle to save the Fukushima nuclear power plant now appears lost as the radioactive core from Reactor No. 2 has melted through the containment vessel and dropped into the concrete basement of the reactor structure. This is "raising fears of a major release of radiation at the site," reports The Guardian, which broke the story.
Fukushima Reactors to Be Entombed in Concrete
After a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuke plant, the Japanese government has finally conceded it has lost the battle to contain radiation at four of the plant’s reactors and they will be closed down.
Details of what that will entail have yet to be revealed, but according to Bloomberg, Japanese officials are looking at ways of entombing the Fukushima reactors in concrete.
The government hasn’t ruled out pouring concrete over the whole facility as one way to shutting it down, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a press conference today in Tokyo.
The dramatic announcement that the four reactors, including a partial meltdown of fuel in the No. 1 reactor building are out of control and will have to be decommissioned was made yesterday by Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of the electric company (TEPCO) operating the nuclear complex.
The reason for the admission of total defeat is that TEPCO knew the battle to keep the fuel rods in the troubled reactors cool could not be won. While workers, who were being paid vast sums of money to brave high radiation levels have averted the threat of a total meltdown by injecting water into the damaged reactors for the past two weeks, “the risk to [them] might be greater than previously thought because melted fuel in the No. 1 reactor building may be causing isolated, uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions, Denis Flory, nuclear safety director for the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA], said at a press conference in Vienna. [via Bloomberg]”
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said however, there’s no possibility of uncontrolled chain reactions. Still, [via Kyodo News] Secretary Edano said Japan and the IAEA agreed that “they would not rule out the possibility of the situation worsening.”
Radiation levels continue to remain extremely high at the Fukushima plant, with water around the reactors emitting a highly dangerous 1,000 millisieverts per hour. Radioactive iodine rose to 4,385 times the regulated safety limit yesterday from 2,572 times on Tuesday.[wallstreetpit.com]
Has Japan 'lost the race' to prevent a total nuclear meltdown?
Nuclear fuel apparently melts through the bottom of a container at one of the Fukushima reactors, heightening fears of a major meltdown.
The disaster at Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is getting worse: Trace amounts of plutonium have been found in the soil outside the plant, the seawater outside the reactors has radioactive iodine-131 at levels 3,355 times above what's considered safe, and, according to former GE nuclear safety researcher Richard Lahey, Japan appears to have "lost the race" to save reactor 2 from a full nuclear meltdown.
Here, a brief guide to the unraveling situation:
How has Japan "lost the race"?
The nuclear cores of four reactors have partially melted, officials believe, but in reactor 2, "the indications we have... suggest that the core has melted through the bottom of the [steel containment] pressure vessel" and onto the cement floor, Lahey tells The Guardian. That would escalate the radiation contamination, but even in a worst-case scenario, "it's not going to be anything like Chernobyl."
Where are the leaks coming from?
Experts aren't sure, but the highly radioactive water in tunnels and basements at the plant, and plutonium in the soil, are worrisome. There's "a complex cacophony of different sources that could have contributed to the leaking water," says nuclear engineering expert Robin Grimes. The most likely are cracks in reactor core vessels, or runoff from the water being used in the last-ditch efforts to keep the cores from melting. Journalist Martin Savidge says the radioactive water in the tunnels is probably responsible for the toxic seawater, since the only obstacle in its path is "sandbags to block drainage pipes."
Is anyone still there?
Yes. Japanese workers are reportedly being offered up to $1,200 a day to brave the potentially deadly conditions at the plant. They are sleeping over a lead-lined sheet in an earthquake-proof building. "The working environment is very tough," acknowledged Kazuma Yokota, head of the nuclear inspection office. Not working is Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) President Masataka Shimizu, who was hospitalized Tuesday for dizziness and high blood pressure. Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 71, took the reins.
What will happen to the plants?
When the crisis is contained, at least four of the reactors will be permanently mothballed, Tepco says. Japan's government has called for all six reactors to be shut. In the meantime, the company is exploring ways to contain radiation leaks, including spraying resin on the ground to trap the radioactive particles, and covering the reactors with a special sheet. Japan is also talking about bringing in tanker ships to store the radioactive water pumped from the site.
Is there any good news?
The radiation in the ocean is expected to disperse and become harmless, and the plutonium levels in the soil are not high enough to harm humans, at least not yet. Also, the Japanese government hasn't been sugarcoating the problem, as widely feared, according to Greenpeace. The anti-nuclear group sent scientists to Japan specifically to keep the government honest, but "there is no contradiction between Greenpeace data and local data." [theweek.com]