Ongoing Crisis at Japan's Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant
This still image taken from news program by NHK on March 17, 2011 shows a helicopter spray water on the reactors of Japan's troubled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. Helicopters were sent by Japan's self-defense force on Friday to cool down the reactors of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station. Credit: nhk/XinHua/Xinhua Press/Corbis
Latest Update: Japan's Nuclear Crisis: 2 Weeks After the Mega-Quake & Tsunami (March 25, 2011)
Using Unconventional Methods to Cool the Damaged Reactors
The crisis at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant in Japan keeps unfolding and things don't seem to be getting much better. It doesn't mean that there's a risk of a nuclear explosion, as that's physically impossible, but there could still be dangerous levels of radioactive materials released by fire or steam/hydrogen explosions. Read on to find out what the latest developments are.
Credit Image: © Koichi Kamoshida/Jana Press/Zuma press/Corbis.
Helicopters and water cannon trucks have been used to dump of water on reactor #3. The operation was apparently partly successful according to Kyodo News:
Up to 64 tons of water were aimed by helicopters and fire trucks of the Self-Defense Forces as well as a water cannon truck of the Metropolitan Police Department into the pool at the No. 3 unit of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
The utility said vapor rising from the partially destroyed No. 3 reactor building suggests the operation went some way toward cooling down the pool that could otherwise emit highly contaminated radioactive materials.
However, no major changes were seen in radioactive levels at the plant immediately afterward.
Earlier in the day, Tokyo metropolitan police water cannon trucks, usually used in riot control, tried to spray seawater on unit #3, but they were driven back by radiation levels shortly after being deployed.
Gregory Jaczko, the chairman of the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has said that radiation levels at the Fukushima plant are "extremely high" and that at their peak level they could be "lethal within a fairly short period of time" and that this could "impact the ability to take corrective measures". He also said that there was little or no water remaining in the unit #4 cooling pool where spent fuel rods are being stored.
Japanese officials responded: "Because we have been unable to go to the scene, we cannot confirm whether there is water left or not in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 4."
The American Embassy in Tokyo asked Americans to evacuate approx 50 miles from Fukushima plant, reported the New York Times.
The plume of radioactive materials coming from Fukushima I has been going over the Pacific ocean so far. American officials say that by the time it reaches the US West Coast, it will have been dissipated enough to not pose health risks.
"We expect the United States to avoid any levels of harmful radiation," NRC spokesman Joey Ledford told Reuters. "We do not anticipate any threat to American interests."
The Swedish official, research director Lars-Erik De Geer of the Swedish Defence Research Institute, was citing data from a network of international monitoring stations set up to detect signs of any nuclear weapons tests. (source)
The BBC reported that:
Officials also said they were hoping that they would restore "as soon as possible" the power supply to the plant, which is needed for the cooling system and back-up generators.
"If the restoration work is completed, we will be able to activate various electric pumps and pour water into reactors and pools for spent nuclear fuel," a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, told the AFP news agency.
Reactor 2 will be the first one to be connected (this work will be completed by Friday at the earliest). The problem is, nobody really knows if the pumps will work even if power is successfully restored.
See also: Update on Japan's Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima I (Wednesday, March 16th, 2011)