Entries in Nuclear Plant (8)


Japan’s Crippled Nuclear Power Plant Reaches Cold Shutdown

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japan’s prime minister announced Friday that cold shutdown has been achieved at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said the reactors “have reached a state of cold shutdown to the point where the accident is now under control.”  Cold shutdown means the reactors have stayed at temperatures below the boiling point for some time.  Experts say significant work still needs to be done and the process will take years.

The reactors’ cooling systems failed in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan this past March.  A series of explosions rocked the plant and a resulting plume of radioactive particles displaced some 80,000 people who lived within a 12-and-a-half-mile radius of the plant.

The government has still not decided when evacuated residents of the area can return to their homes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


10,000 Times: Radiation in Water Near Japan Nuke Plant Skyrockets

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Japanese officials are testing the soil contaminated by radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to try to determine whether spring farming can begin as alarmingly high radiation levels were detected outside the evacuation zone Thursday.

"As a ratio, it was about two times higher" than levels at which the agency recommends evacuations," International Atomic Energy Agency official Elena Buglova said at a news conference.

Meanwhile, radioactivity in the water underneath the Fukushima plant measured 10,000 times the government standard. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the company does not believe that any drinking water is affected.

Officials said earlier this week that dangerous plutonium was found in soil near the reactors.

Residents within 12 miles of the nuclear plant were evacuated after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami knocked out the reactor's cooling system March 11.

Radiation has also been detected in tap water, milk and vegetables, prompting the government to release a long list of banned food products from the region closest to the reactors.

Ninety-nine individually tested foods, including spinach, milk, cabbage and celery, have turned up with some radioactivity.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Plutonium Found in Soil Outside Japanese Nuke Plant

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Radiation from Japan's crippled nuclear reactors has now contaminated the ground and the sea surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi complex, as officials fear that some of the reactors may already be in partial meltdown.

Inside the plant, the problems are serious. Video captured smoke billowing from reactors two and three, a visible sign of the catastrophe happening inside.

Radioactive water has been found in all four of the reactors at the plant.

The news comes a day after officials apologized for an inaccurate reading of a major increase in radioactivity which caused a panic that led workers to flee the plant. The inaccurate reading was confirmed as a mistake Sunday night by operators at the plant.

"The number is not credible," said Tokyo Electric Power Company spokesman Takashi Kurita. "We are very sorry."

The mistake prompted harsh criticism from the government.

"Such a mistake is not something that should be forgiven or acceptable," said government spokesman Yukio Edano.

ABC News went to the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Company to ask Kurita about the latest in a number of conflicting reports coming from the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

"We are so sorry to inconvenience everybody," he told ABC News. "We are trying to stabilize the situation. We are trying to give out the most accurate information." Asked why more help has not been brought in, his response was surprising.

"I agree with you actually, but we are doing our best but at the same time the government and also many companies are economists and defense force and fire department, all sorts of people have been supporting us to calm down the situation," said Kurita.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, told reporters that radioactive water may be leaking into the ocean.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan: Power Company Apologizes for Radiation Burns to Workers

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) on Saturday issued an apology for not giving its employees proper warning about the degree of radiation risk they faced.

The apology follows a report that water which caused radiation burns to the legs and feet of three workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was 10,000 times more radioactive than normal. TEPCO apologized for knowing about the radiation risk its employees faced, yet not telling them about it.

In a statement, TEPCO officials said “If we had given (the employees) the heads up thoroughly, we would have been able to avoid their exposure to the radiation at this time. We regret our lack of communication.”

Nuclear experts say the water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant could only reach those levels if it had come into contact with uranium, meaning a breach of the core was almost certain. There are also reports that a high level of radiation has been found in sea water near the plant.

The government is attempting to stay on top of the situation by encouraging TEPCO to provide them with as much information as possible.

Government officials claim the situation at Reactor 1 is stable and does not appear to be getting worse, however, they anticipate that it would be a “long time” before the crisis is over. Government officials also say they will.

On Friday, Prime Minister Naoto Kan Friday called the situation "grave and serious."

"We are not in a position to be optimistic," Kan said. "We must remain vigilant. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

The death toll in Japan stands at an estimated 10,175 people, while over 17,000 people are reportedly still missing following the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resulting tsunami in Japan on March 11.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Nuclear Crisis: Workers Fail to Stabilize Plant

Sankei via Getty Images(TOKYO) --The Japanese are looking to the U.S. for help after frantic efforts to cool the overheating Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors and fuel ponds have failed to bring the plant under control.

There is hope that water pumps the U.S. is sending could help to avert disaster.

The entire crisis began when the plant lost power after last week's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. Plant operators have now connected a new power line that could restore electricity. However, if the Japanese flip the switch and the critical water pumps that cool the reactors do not work, the American pumps may come to the rescue.

The Pentagon has shipped in the pumps, but no U.S. personnel. Japanese workers will risk their lives to operate them. The pumps were not shipped in earlier because the Japanese had not requested them.

The power line, if it works, might help in the effort to cool the reactors, but not the fuel ponds.

"From what I see they are working to get electricity back to the site so that they can restart the backup cooling pumps. If this happens then that would be good news for the reactors themselves," Kirby Kemper, a nuclear physicist and professor at Florida State University, said. "As far as the holding ponds are concerned, you probably also need to get some boron-loaded fluid in there [if] you think that any of the rods have melted through and released material, so that there is no danger of having fissions from the clump of material falling to the bottom of the tank."

On Thursday, in new video, close-ups of reactors three and four were visible for the first time. Reactor three was charred and billowing steam and the walls of reactor four were blown out.

One U.S. official told ABC News the most serious problem was the spent fuel rods at reactor four, which are extremely hot and "probably close to a crisis situation."

The water in the pool is desperately low, and without water, the rods could ignite and fill the sky with radioactive smoke.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said at a press conference Thursday that the situation at the plant remains "serious" but has not worsened since yesterday.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japanese Deny US Nuke Claim

DigitalGlobe/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- America's top nuclear official told Congress Wednesday that the pool cooling spent fuel rods at the crippled Japanese nuclear complex had lost most of its water or all of its water, a potentially catastrophic situation.

The Japanese quickly challenged that statement but gave few details about the holding pool's condition.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said that the fuel pool at unit four at the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had lost massive amounts of water.

"We believe at this point that unit 4 may have lost a significant inventory, if not lost all of its water," Jaczko told a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "What we know at unit three, and again our information is limited, what we believe is that there is a crack in the spent fuel pool for unit three as well, which could lead to a loss of water in that pool."

The spent fuel rods are kept in pools of water to prevent them from overheating and ultimately melting down. The outer shell of the rods could also ignite with enough force to propel the radioactive fuel inside over a wide area.

Japan's nuclear safety agency and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the complex, deny water is gone from the pool.

Radiation levels have risen rapidly at the plant and there is a fear that the situation is heading for the worst. If levels continue to rise, the doses emergency workers experience near the reactors could be lethal. One U.S. Official told ABC News that "it would be hard to describe how alarming this is right now" and that a suicide mission might not even be enough to avert disaster.

Jaczko recommends that American citizens living within 50 miles of the Fukushima nuclear power plant evacuate the area.

But Japan's current evacuation zone is 12 to 19 miles. The recommendation comes as the Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced that the power line to the plant is almost complete and that the company plans to try it "as soon as possible." The line would revive electric-powered pumps, enabling a steady water supply to be maintained at the troubled reactors and spent fuel storage ponds, keeping them cool.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


NRC Chair: 'No Water in the Spent Fuel Pool' at Fukushima's Unit Four

STR/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission warned Wednesday afternoon that all of the water is gone from the spent fuel pool at reactor four of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, causing “extremely high” radiation levels.

“We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures,” NRC Chair Gregory Jaczko told the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

He suspected a hydrogen explosion occurred in the unit due to the uncovering of the fuel in the pool.

Asked for clarification, Jaczko explained, “We believe at this point that unit four may have lost a significant inventory, if not lost all of its water.”

The pools are designed to cool spent fuel rods. Without water, the exposed fuel rods risk overheating, which could lead to a meltdown or explosion.

Jaczko also said that the “integrity has been compromised” at the spent fuel pool at unit three.

“What we know at unit three, and again our information is limited, what we believe is that there is a crack in the spent fuel pool for unit three as well, which could lead to a loss of water in that pool,” he said.

Earlier in the day the U.S. recommended that all American citizens in Japan evacuate a 50-mile radius surrounding the Fukushima nuclear reactors in light of the ongoing nuclear crisis.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Japan Earthquake: Radiation Leaking After Fukushima Nuclear Plant Explodes

STR/AFP/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- Radiation has spread from damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant following an explosion at one unit and a fire at another, Japanese government officials said early Tuesday.

A spokesman for the government said radiation levels at areas around the plant are high enough to pose a health risk.

The explosion at unit 2 and the fire at unit 4 of the plant, where units 1 and 3 also have exploded since the powerful earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday, have Japanese officials "freaked out," a senior U.S. official said.

"The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," Prime Minsiter Naoto Kan said.

Kan said most people have left the 20-kilometer evacuation zone around the plant, and he advised people within a 30-kilometer (19-mile) radius to stay indoors to avoid possible radiation poisoning.

"Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said. "These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower."

While the previous explosions at Fukushima Daiichi reactors one and three were hydrogen blasts caused by a buildup of steam in the reactor units, the new blast at reactor number two has officials unsure of the cause.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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