Fukushima Explosion Update: Core Presumed Intact As Sea Water Used To Bring Temperature Down, Radiation Level At 1015 Microsieverts/Hour
The damage control to the Fukushima explosion reported earlier is coming fast and furious. According to CNN, "the explosion at an earthquake-damaged nuclear plant was not caused by
damage to the nuclear reactor but by a pumping system that failed as
crews tried to bring the reactor's temperature down, Chief Cabinet
Secretary Yukio Edano said Saturday. The next step for workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will be to
flood the reactor containment structure with sea water to bring the
reactor's temperature down to safe levels, he said. The effort is
expected to take two days." While the government is trying to play down the threat from the explosion, it has nonetheless double the evacuation zone radius from 10 to 20 kilometers: "Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no
immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless
expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about
12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to
10 kilometers." Next steps are to flood the reactor with salt water. NHK reports: "The
TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture is
believed to be exploded, and in order to prevent corruption, the
containment vessel will be filled with sea water to cool containers and
vehicles used by the SDF pump I. According to the Ministry of Defense,
work will begin at 8:00 pm, and that it expected to end around 1:00 am
on March 13 (or roughly 11 am Eastern)." And while containment efforts peak, the radiation level is reported to be in the range of 1015 microsieverts / hr. In the meantime, confusion in Japan is pervasive as up to a million people are without power. And while we hope the outcome of the Fukushima situation will be prompt and favorable, the economic devastation to the country will be pervasive for weeks to come.
More damage control:
Radiation levels have fallen since the explosion and there is no immediate danger, Edano said. But authorities were nevertheless expanding the evacuation to include a radius of 20 kilometers (about 12.5 miles) around the plant. The evacuation previously reached out to 10 kilometers.
The explosion about 3:30 p.m. Saturday sent white smoke rising above the plant a day after a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled cooling systems at the plant in northeastern Japan. Four workers were injured in the blast.
The walls of a concrete building surrounding the reactor container collapsed, but the reactor and its containment system were not damaged in the explosion, Edano said.
Before Edano's announcement, Malcolm Grimston, associate fellow for energy, environment and development at London's Chatham House, said the explosion indicated that "it's clearly a serious situation, but that in itself does not necessarily mean major (nuclear) contamination."
Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the injured workers were in the process of cooling a nuclear reactor at the plant by injecting water into its core.
The Fukushima prefecture government said hourly radiation levels at the plant had reached levels allowable for ordinary people over the course of a year, Kyodo reported.
Earlier Saturday, Japan's nuclear agency said workers were continuing efforts to cool fuel rods at the plant after a small amount of radioactive material escaped into the air.
The agency said there was a strong possibility that the radioactive cesium monitors detected was from the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them.
Cesium is a byproduct of the nuclear fission process that occurs in nuclear plants.
A spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Agency earlier said atomic material had seeped out of one of the five nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant, located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.
"This is a situation that has the potential for a nuclear catastrophe. It's basically a race against time, because what has happened is that plant operators have not been able to cool down the core of at least two reactors," said Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington.
Experts said pictures of mist above the plant suggested only small amounts of radiation had been expelled as part of measures to ensure its stability, far from the radioactive clouds that Chernobyl spewed out when it exploded in 1986.
"The explosion at No. 1 generating set of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, which took place today, will not be a repetition of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster," said Valeriy Hlyhalo, deputy director of the Chernobyl nuclear safety centre.
He was quoted by Interfax news agency as saying Japanese reactors were better protected than Chernobyl, where just over 30 firefighters were killed in the explosion. The world's worst civilian nuclear disaster, Chernobyl has also been blamed for thousands of deaths due to radiation-linked illness.
"Apart from that, these reactors are designed to work at a high seismicity zone, although what has happened is beyond the impact the plants were designed to withstand," Hlyhalo said.
"Therefore, the consequences should not be as serious as after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster."
We will continue following what appears to be nothing but a prolonged attempt at disaster spin as earthquake aftershocks continue.