Friday, April 01, 2011

Japan Struggles To Contain Nuclear Emergency

New video footage has been taken showing several of the damaged reactors at Fukushima from much closer than previous videos. It would seem that the footage was taken from the boom used to pour water on the damaged reactors:

The Japanese Prime Minister is expected to visit the restricted area around Fukushima, but the government and TEPCO are struggling to deal with the ongoing radiation discovered in and around the damaged facility. Radiation has been found in ground water near the plant, and there have been contradictory messages by both the government and TEPCO about radiation levels at different times:
High levels of radioactive materials have been found in groundwater below a stricken nuclear power station in north- eastern Japan, the plant's operator said Friday.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) confirmed that radioactivity in groundwater below the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant measured 10,000 times the legal threshold after the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said earlier in the day that part of the data had errors and ordered the operator to re-examine the figures.

The contaminated groundwater was detected around the turbine building of reactor number 1 at the plant, TEPCO said. The plant, 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo, was crippled by the March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami and has been leaking radiation.

Further muddying the issue was the revelation from TEPCO late Friday that the computer monitoring radiation levels at reactor number 1 was not working properly, reported the NHK broadcaster.

Experts have criticized information from the plant, saying levels reported in the water tested at the plant were too high. The revelation adds to a long chain of concerns about TEPCO's reporting on the process to restore control at Fukushima.

The Health Ministry reported Thursday that beef in Fukushima prefecture contained radioactive material above the legal limit, the first such detection in beef.

But a re-examination showed Friday that no radioactive substances were found in beef, the ministry said. No explanation was offered for the change.
There's no explanation for how the water levels have become radioactive - whether that was due to the water being poured into the reactor complex to cool down the damaged reactors and spent fuel pools, or whether leaks in the reactor core containment and spent fuel pools is contributing to the problem. The solutions will depend greatly on determining the source of the radioactive water and how to limit its further spread (although radioactive water has been detected in the ocean nearby - sourced to the reactor complex).

Also, the US Marines are deploying a unit that has special training in dealing with NBC hazards. Navy units are also participating in efforts to clear harbors and waterways of obstacles so shipping can resume to the affected region.

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