Fukushima: Meltdown at Unit 1. Maybe at Unit 2. Maybe at Unit 3. American Media: Nothing to see here, move along.
May 12, 2011
You know that water you were told was covering up and cooling fuel in the damaged reactors? Turns out, not so much.
The first team of human observers entered Fukushima Unit 1, to find that company reassurances that fuel rods were covered with water were erroneous. In fact, water levels have been up to 16 feet lower than needed to cover the fuel, water has been draining out of the vessel, the fuel has been uncovered, and may have melted through the containment structures.
Coolant is escaping through a newly discovered opening in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’s No. 1 reactor pressure vessel, a development that could slow efforts to prevent potential further radiation releases from the Japanese facility, Reuters reported on Thursday (see GSN, May 11).
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power learned the container held less water than previously believed following repairs to monitoring equipment this week; the tank’s fluid quantity was roughly 16 feet short of the depth required to fully submerge atomic fuel if the material had remained in its intended position. The six-reactor site was severely damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 20,000 people dead or missing in Japan.
“There must be a large leak,” Tokyo Electric Power official Junichi Matsumoto said to reporters on Thursday. “The fuel pellets likely melted and fell, and in the process may have damaged … the pressure vessel itself and created a hole,” he said.
Thousands of tons of water, now highly radioactive, has unexpectedly rushed out to parts unknown, according to the company – and the same thing may have been happening in units 2 and 3.
The reactor has received just under 10,400 metric tons of water to date, and the destination of the escaping fluid was uncertain, he said, adding powerful radioactivity complicated a possible direct inspection of the area by plant personnel (Yuto Kubota, Reuters, May 12). Much of the fluid could have moved to the reactor’s outer containment vessel, Kyodo News reported (Kyodo News I/Mainichi Daily News, May 12).
Similar ruptures might have developed in the plant’s No. 2 and No. 3 reactors if their nuclear material had heated to the point of losing its structure, Reuters quoted Matsumoto as saying. The firm was planning similar cooling efforts for those systems.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media’s “nothing to see here, move along” policy continues.