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Molten radioactive fuel caused new water leakage at Fukushima

Published time: May 12, 2011 16:22
Edited time: May 13, 2011 00:44

The operator of the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan revealed the damage to one of the reactors is worse than had previously been thought.

­Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the Fukushima-1 power plant, said it discovered that molten nuclear fuel burned through the walls of reactor No. 1 early on in the crisis.

“Operation Water Sarcophagus” will have to be corrected because of radioactive water leaking through the holes burned by the molten fuel, Tepco officials said on Thursday.

The plan involved cooling the reactor by pumping in eight tons of water every hour into each reactor shell and protective shelter.

Earlier on Wednesday, experts discovered that the level of water in the reactor is five meters lower than it should be. At first the source of the water leakage was not immediately known, but it was suspected to be coming from the basement of the turbine building where radioactive water leaking from the reactor has been pooling for weeks.

Later the experts found out that the decrease in water level in the reactor had actually caused the fuel rods to melt and descend onto the floor bed of the reactor, burning yet more holes for the water to escape through.

Efforts to stabilize the situation at the site have been going on for two months now. Highly radioactive water inside the Unit 2 reactor building has disrupted work before and a leakage into the ocean in April caused widespread concern.

According to Robert Jacobs, a professor at the Hiroshima Peace Institute, the true scale of the crisis will take years to assess.

“The government in Japan is really not in a position to take control of the plant. They will have to depend on the professionals who work
for Tepco. The affairs are much more serious than we were told earlier,”
stated Jacobs.

Jacobs also believes a meltdown at the plant has been hushed up.

“We were not told that for a long time, probably because Tepco did not even realize it for a long time'" he stated. "I have a rule of thumb, which is that anything that is publicly stated is probably around 10 to 20 percent of what’s true. It will take us years to know the extent of the contamination and the extent of the fuel melting. The best-case scenario in this situation is that it will take months to begin to stop leaking the radiation from the reactors.”

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