Entries in Nuclear Regulatory Commission (2)


US Report: Japan's Nuclear Plant Is Far From Stable

ABC News(TOKYO) -- After workers successfully plugged the highly radioactive leak seeping into the Pacific Ocean, a new confidential assessment by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission obtained by The New York Times suggests that the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant is far from stable.

Fragments of incredibly dangerous nuclear fuel were blown out of the reactors "up to one mile from the units," and then simply bulldozed over to protect workers on site, according to the NRC report.

Until now, flooding the damaged reactors with water has been considered the most efficient cooling method but the latest assessment raises concerns that the water may have introduced a new set of dangerous complications.  U.S. engineers now worry that the enormous amount of water is actually weakening the containment vessels, making them more vulnerable to possible ruptures.

In an effort to avoid the continued spread of radiation and worse, a hydrogen explosion due to the hydrogen and oxygen present in seawater, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that it will begin injecting nitrogen into reactor one and likely reactors two and three.  Nitrogen is normally present inside the containment that surrounds the reactor core and can prevent highly combustible hydrogen from exploding as it did three times in the early days after the March 11 disaster.

ABC News contributor and president of Ploughshares Fund, Joe Circinione told ABC News that a hydrogen explosion, while not expected, is not totally out of the question.

"A new hydrogen explosion could happen, there could be a failure of one of the fuel rods, the fuel ponds that could cause a fire and if so, it could be a major release of radiation," said Circinione.

While the newest threat is concentrated on land, nearly 11,500 tons of radioactive sea water is slowly diluting in the Pacific Ocean.  Many worry that migrating fish such as albacore tuna might be contaminated as they make their way from Japan to the Pacific Northwest.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Japan Seeks U.S. Help With Nuclear Reactor Emergency

Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images(TOKYO) -- The Japanese government formally asked the United States' Nuclear Regulatory Commission for help in stabilizing its troubled nuclear reactors in the wake of the country's massive earthquake and tsunami.

The NRC sent two boiling water reactor experts to Japan as part of a team of aid workers to help in the recovery efforts. A series of nuclear reactors continue to deteriorate at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, raising worries of a nuclear meltdown.

After two hydrogen explosions in three days at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a third reactor has lost its ability to cool. Officials are increasingly concerned about unit 2 at the plant.

"They continue to work hard to raise the water level to cover the fuel. Let's pray again," Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice chairman of Japan's Atomic Energy Commission, posted on Facebook Monday.

The fuel rods on unit 2 have been fully exposed for the second time Monday, a dangerous development in the effort to stop the reactor from melting down. The exposure of the fuel rods means that the temperature in the reactor is likely to rise, which will allow it to make steam. The steam could lead to the creation of hydrogen and cause another explosion, experts said.

Knowing how long the fuel rods have been exposed is key to understanding if there is a real chance of a meltdown, said Dr. Peter Hosemann, a nuclear energy expert and professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

Japanese officials acknowledged that the fuel rods appear to be melting inside all three of the reactors at the Fukashima plant.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio