Prime Minister: “Maximum Alert” at Fukushima

March 29, 2011

Plutonium

BBC story:

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said his government is in a state of maximum alert over the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.

Plutonium has been detected in soil at the facility and highly radioactive water has leaked from a reactor building.

Officials say the priority remains injecting water to cool the fuel rods.

Mr Kan told parliament the situation at the quake-hit plant “continues to be unpredictable”.

The government “will tackle the problem while in a state of maximum alert”, he said, adding that he was seeking advice on whether to extend the evacuation zone around the plant.

Meanwhile National Strategy Minister Koichiro Gemba said the government could consider temporarily nationalising Tepco, the company running the plant.

The terrible dilemma is that the reactors must be continuously flooded with water to avoid much worse melting – yet that water is what is carrying radioactive materials outside the plant, into steam, and groundwater. Plutonium has now been discovered outside the plant boundary.

The Telegraph of Australia:

JAPAN has no choice but to keep pouring water into reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant to limit a huge meltdown, the government said today, despite fears it could cause highly radioactive leaks.

“We need to avoid the fuel rods from heating up and drying up. Continuing the cooling is unavoidable … We need to prioritize injecting water,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

Firefighters and troops have been hosing sea water and injecting pure water into four of six reactors at the plant after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out cooling systems.

But as a consequence of this emergency measure, since Thursday radioactive water has been found in the basement of all four reactors’ turbine buildings and in underground tunnels linked to them.

Water found in the tunnel linked to the No. 2 reactor showed a radiation reading of more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour, and contained water equivalent to more than two Olympic swimming pools.

CNN adds this:

Meanwhile, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said workers were using sandbags and concrete panels to keep the water inside the trench, which is located about 55 meters (180 feet) from the shore. The agency said there is no evidence of overflow yet.

Japanese officials and international experts have said they believe there’s been a partial meltdown at three of the plants six reactors.

“The high radiation levels on site seem to support that idea. There is no visual proof yet, but it’s increasingly likely there was partial fuel melting,” said Gary Was, a nuclear engineering expert at the University of Michigan.

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