Sunday, April 03, 2011

Japanese Nuclear Emergency Will Take Months To Bring Under Control

Japan's nuclear emergency will take months to fully bring under control as efforts to keep the nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools cool have caused their own problems that are proving to be as problematic as the coolant problems were.

To keep the reactors and spent fuel pools cool, TEPCO and the Japanese government were pouring hundreds of tons of sea water, including boron infused water, and TEPCO now faces tons of radioactive water due to leaks in any number of places.

It is those leaks that are now dogging the efforts to contain the radioactivity because the water is disrupting efforts to contain the reactors.

The remains of two workers at Fukushima were discovered; they had been presumed missing since the tsunami hit. Their bodies will need to be decontaminated for radiation due to the ongoing exposures at the nuclear reactor.

Workers are trying to plug leaks and aren't having much success.
On Saturday, workers discovered an 8-inch-long crack in a maintenance pit at the Fukushima plant that they said was believed to have been caused by the earthquake. Water containing levels of radioactive iodine far above the legal limit spilled from it into the Pacific, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

A picture released by TEPCO shows water shooting some distance away from a wall and splashing into the sea, though the amount of water was not clear. The contaminated water was expected to quickly dissipate in the ocean but could pose a danger to workers at the plant.

Pooling water at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex — which is believed to come from the reactor cores — has repeatedly forced technicians to pull back and suspend their work.

Word of the leak came Saturday as Prime Minister Naoto Kan toured the town of Rikuzentakata, his first trip to survey damage in one of the dozens of villages, towns and cities slammed by the tsunami.

"The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims. Both deserve attention," said 35-year-old Megumi Shimanuki, who was visiting her family at a community center converted into a shelter in hard-hit Natori, about 100 miles from Rikuzentakata.

More than 165,000 are still living in shelters, and tens of thousands more still do not have electricity or running water.

Although the government had rushed to provide relief, its attention has been divided by the efforts at the Fuskushima plant.

The plant's reactors overheated to dangerous levels after electrical pumps — deprived of power — failed to circulate water to keep them cool. A series of almost daily problems have led to substantial amounts of radiation leaking into the atmosphere, ground and sea. Huge hydrogen explosions destroyed the buildings surrounding two of the reactors.

Over the past 10 days, pools of contaminated water have been found throughout the plant and high levels of radioactivity have been measured in the ocean, but this marks the first time authorities said they had found a spot where the water was directly entering the sea.

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