Fukushima: the struggle continues

The effort to contain the damage at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant underwent a setback yesterday, when high levels of radiation forced workers to vacate reactor building #3. Two workers suffered radiation burns from wading through contaminated water; reportedly, the workers were not wearing protective boots. The BBC reported that turbine halls at reactors 1 and 3 had radiation levels 10,000 times higher than normal. Japan’s Nuclear Safety Agency denied that the reactor cores were breached, but admitted that some sort of leakage may have occurred.

Levels of radiation measured in sea water 300m off the coast were eight times higher than a week ago. An NSA spokesman stated that sea life should not be affected, as the radioactive iodine isotope responsible has a half-life of only eight days, but many Japanese remain concerned. It is not clear whether the radioactive material was swept to sea as runoff, or was borne by offshore winds.

Considering the amount of water that workers have been spraying around the plant over the last week in an attempt to keep temperatures in the spent fuel rod pools under control, elevated radiation levels in runoff would hardly be surprising. This could also explain the concentration of radioactive contaminants at low points in the reactor buildings. It is not necessary to presume a breach in the core containment. However, so long as the fuel rod temperatures remain above normal, the danger of meltdown and core breach remains. It is critical that technicians are able to keep working in the reactor buildings to bring control and cooling systems back online. This is the major concern raised by yesterday’s developments: if workers are unable to safely approach the reactor buildings, the status of the damaged reactors, already unstable,  will rapidly deteriorate. Hopefully, as in the case of previous radiation alerts, the workers will be able to resume their valiant efforts after a brief hiatus.

Japan nuclear plant: Radioactivity rises in sea nearby

2 Responses to “Fukushima: the struggle continues”

  1. Just where is the facebook like button ?

  2. Good question! Just added a “share/bookmark” menu. Thanks.

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