Alert WtD reader Spatch has alerted us to the following LA Times Article:
U.S. government nuclear experts believe a spent fuel pool at Japan’s crippled Fukushima reactor complex has a breach in the wall or floor, a situation that creates a major obstacle to refilling the pool with cooling water and keeping dangerous levels of radiation from escaping.
That assessment by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials is based on the sequence of events since the earthquake and information provided by key American contractors who were in the plant at the time, said government officials familiar with the evaluation. It was compelling evidence, they said, that the wall of the No. 4 reactor pool has a significant hole or crack.
Unlike the reactor itself, the spent fuel pool does not have its own containment vessel, and any radioactive particles and gases can more easily spew into the environment if the uranium fuel begins to burn. In addition, the pool, which contains 130 tons of uranium fuel, is housed in a building that Japanese authorities say appears to have been damaged by fire or explosions.
A breach in the pool would leave engineers with a problem that has no precedent or ready-made solution, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“My intuition is that this is a terrible situation and it is only going to get worse,” he said. “There may not be any way to deal with it.”
The struggle to cool down stricken nuclear reactors and spent fuel pools in northern Japan entered a second week Friday, with fluctuating radiation levels and blustery winds hampering efforts to douse the most damaged installations with water from military helicopters and firetrucks with high-powered hoses.
We’re all watching these developments…
Now it seems the situaiton as Fukushima has been raised from catergory 4 to 5 (on a scale of 7), and that the Japanese admit they did not move quick enough:
Japan’s top government spokesman said Friday that the country’s leadership was overwhelmed by last week’s earthquake and tsunami, which slowed its ability to respond to the following humanitarian crisis and nuclear emergency.
“The unprecedented scale of the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, frankly speaking, were among many things that happened that had not been anticipated under our disaster management contingency plans,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, according to the Associated Press.
“In hindsight we could have moved a little quicker in assessing the situation and coordinating all that information and provided it faster,” he said.
While radiation has just driven workers back:
Efforts to try to restore power to reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex are interrupted as high radiation forces the withdrawal of workers. But it’s unclear whether a return of power will help. Spent fuel rods remain the biggest concern.
Let’s hope we don’t see another Chernobyl.