A short article about the precarious nuclear power
crisis in Japan.
Another fire broke out on Wednesday at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after an
explosion in the plant’s second reactor on Tuesday. As the winds shift and radiation
levels worsen in some areas, there is widespread fear in Japan of an unprecedented
public health catastrophe, and possible meltdown.
The Kyodo News reported that the control room at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
had to be abandoned on Tuesday, because of the high levels of radiation. The radiation
levels around the plant threaten the health, and lives of anyone exposed to significant levels of radioactive discharges within about 19 miles from the plant.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant’s reactors initially shutdown after the 9.0 earthquake devastated northeast Japan. The backup power to the generators that were
fueling the reactor’s cooling system went down after the tsunami worsened the disaster.
The backup power was eventually restored, but plant managers decided to flood the reactors with seawater in an attempt to reduce the temperatures, and to prevent a meltdown.
A partial meltdown where the fuel rods are damaged may have already occurred at the plant, because the fuel rods were damaged during the earth quake. The seawater has
failed to stop the heat issue, and a partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, similar to the events at Three Mile Island in 1979--has probably occurred. A full
meltdown like occurred at Chernobyl, Ukraine in 1986, has not occurred yet because the
Fukushima Daiichi plant, like Three Mile Island, has the reactor within a sealed container.
Russian nuclear chief Sergei Kiriyenko indicated to Vladmir Putin, according to Reuters March 15, 2011 that “under the worst case scenario all six reactors could melt down.”
Kiriyenko said that in regard to the devastated Fukushima nuclear facility that: "
‘All six can pose a threat unfortunately.’ "
Kiriyenko indicated that the fire at reactor 4 was caused by the failure of plant officials
to pour water into the fuel pool. Kiriyenko also indicated that the heat continues to increase in reactors 5 and 6 which could lead to a meltdown, but a nuclear explosion is unlikely in the event of a meltdown of the reactors.
James Walsh a nuclear expert from MIT told CNN that: “The million-dollar question is whether that melting will be contained.” Walsh was referring to the fuel rods that are melting inside the containment vessels, and whether the concrete and steel in the vessels
So far about 160 people have been exposed to radioactive leaks, and about 120,000 people have been evacuated. The radiation levels in Tokyo were double there usual levels, but authorities in Tokyo contend that current radiation levels supposedly do
not pose a health risk.
At this point, it remains to be seen to what extent Japan’s nuclear reactors will meltdown, and whether the containment vessels will hold. What is known is that the damaged reactor situation in Japan remains extremely dangerous, and some experts are expecting meltdown scenarios to occur.