Nuclear energy experts in the U.S. believe that the quake-damaged atomic plant in northeastern Japan that is at the center of an unrelenting crisis has a dire breach in the wall or floor – a predicament that will pose serious problems when they seek to refill the spent fuel pool with coolant in order to prevent the release of extremely harmful radioactivity.
The breach is reportedly ay the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, the epicenter of last week’s deadly earthquake/tsunami.
Experts also believe that the presence of a leak in a spent fuel pool at the Fukushima nuclear facility would pose an unprecedented problem with no obvious solutions remedy.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) made this grave assessment based on data provided to it by US contractors who were at the paralyzed Fukushima plant, said the Los Angeles Times.
According to the Times, “unlike the reactor itself, the spent fuel pool does not have its own containment vessel, and any radioactive particles and gases can more easily spew into the environment if the uranium fuel begins to burn.”
Moreover, the pool (which contains 130 tons of uranium fuel) is located inside a building appears to have been damaged by fire or explosions, according to Japanese officials.
Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, warns that a breach in the pool might be an insurmountable problem from engineers.
My intuition is that this is a terrible situation and it is only going to get worse, he told the Times. There may not be any way to deal with it.
Meanwhile, workers in and around the Fukushima plant remain dedicated to cooling down the nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools, while perhaps exposing themselves to harmful doses of radiation. Inclement winter weather in the region also presents challenges to the emergency team.
Military officers and soldiers have attempted to cool the reactors with tons of water dropped from helicopters, among other measures. The nuclear team also seeks to cool down the complex of reactors by hooking them up to an electrical power grid.
Of primary concern to Japanese officials is the fact that fuel rods at least three of the six reactors at the site have partially melted. Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano has emphasized that cooling down the No. 3 reactor is his top priority (not the alleged crack at No. 4).
However, some foreign nuclear experts believe the biggest worries are the spent fuel pool at No. 4 which is highly radioactive and the fuel rods that may have become exposed there.
Japanese Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that levels of radioactive at the Fukushima plant dropped by Friday afternoon and did not pose a threat to humans.
Information from the front line is emerging in fragments, he said.