As Japan's infatuation with the great nominal stock market experiment continues, the government wishes nothing more than to put the Fukushima nuclear disaster in the past, so it can restart its nuclear power plants: the critical, decisive factor if Abenomics has any chance of succeeding, as the country's economy will never recover if it has to rely on foreign sources of energy. Alas, for the time being this looks improbable and following the latest news out of Fukushima, it may be downright impossible. According to the BBC, the Fukushima nuclear power plant has been emitting steam from its destroyed reactor, confirming that while one can bury radioactive garbage under the rug, it continues to emit gamma rays and is likely to get much worse before it gets better.
Steam has been seen rising from a reactor building at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, its operator says. It says it is investigating what is causing the steam at the damaged No 3 reactor building. The plant, crippled by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011, has seen a series of water leaks and power failures.
Water is being pumped into the reactors to cool them, but that has left Tepco with the problem of storing the contaminated waste water. A worker first noticed the steam after reviewing camera footage taken of the building, Tepco said.
The operator said in a statement there was a "steam-like gas wafting through the air near the central part of the fifth floor [equipment storage pool side]" of the No 3 reactor building.
The reactor water injection and the cooling of the spent fuel pool were "continuing stably", Tepco said. There were also no significant change in the temperature of the reactor. "We will continue to monitor the status closely," the statement added.
Tepco, naturally, despite admitting it is not sure what is going on, had a prepared "all is well" statement:
Tokyo Electric Power Company said there was no emergency situation and there were no signs of increased radiation in the area.
"We do not believe an emergency situation is breaking out although we are still investigating what caused this," a spokesman told Agence-France Presse news agency. Mayumi Yoshida, another Tepco spokesperson, told Reuters news agency: "We think it's possible that rain made its way through the reactor building and having fallen on the primary containment vessel, which is hot, evaporated creating steam."
This is the latest in a series of problems that the Fukushima power plant has faced in recent months. Last week, a sharp increase in radioactive cesium was detected in groundwater 25m (82ft) from the sea. In June, radioactive water was also found to be leaking from a storage tank.
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant stood ready Thursday to inject boric acid into one of its most heavily damaged reactors after it found steam emanating from the reactor building. The preventive measure would stave off sustained nuclear reactions in the reactor’s damaged core, though officials stressed that such reactions were a remote possibility.
The incident has brought the Fukushima plant’s vulnerable state into sharp relief, more than two years after its reactors suffered multiple meltdowns when its cooling systems were overwhelmed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami. A recent jump in levels of radioactive cesium and tritium in the groundwater at the coastal plant, along with suggestions that the groundwater is leaking into the Pacific, has also raised alarms over the continued environmental threat posed by the plant.
Remote camera footage Thursday showed steam escaping from the top of the No. 3 reactor’s primary containment structure, which houses its fuel vessel, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco. A worker who checked the footage Thursday morning noticed the steam, said Hiroki Kawamata, a spokesman for the operator.
Mr. Kawamata said officials were unsure what was generating the steam, and hypothesized that rainwater seeping into the containment vessel may have turned to vapor because of elevated temperatures there. Extremely high levels of radiation in the now roofless upper sections of the No. 3 reactor building — destroyed in a hydrogen explosion that rocked the reactor during the early days of the 2011 disaster — make it too dangerous for workers to approach. Debris removal work is carried out by remotely-operated cranes.
Video footage seemed to show less steam Thursday evening, and after sundown it became too dark to accurately check for any vapor, Masayuki Ono, acting general manager of Tepco’s nuclear power and plant siting division, later told an emergency news conference.
Still, workers were ready to inject water containing boric acid into the reactor from the outside at any signs of further trouble, such as a rapid rise in temperature or radiation parameters, the company said in an e-mailed statement.
Such spikes would raise the chilling possibility of criticality in the reactor’s damaged fuel, most which is thought to have melted and slumped to the bottom of its containment structure after the hydrogen explosion, one of several at the site in 2011. Boric acid would slow that rate of fission, preventing the worst-case scenario of uncontrolled nuclear chain reactions in the core.
As is well known, however, all those ongoing radioactive events are purely "due to the weather" and nothing to do with the most glaring disaster coverup in recent history.