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Monday, March 14, 2011

3rd Blast Confirmed, part 3

Mar 14th, 2011 7:56pm CST

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Okay. It does sound bad. But we are having a very hard time getting confirmations.

From Today Online:

"Tokyo Electric said late yesterday that a malfunctioning valve made it impossible to inject seawater into the reactor. The water levels inside its containment vessel fell and left its fuel rods exposed - perhaps completely exposed - for some hours. 

In reactor No 2, which is now the most damaged of the three at the Daiichi plant, at least parts of the fuel rods have been exposed for several hours, which also suggests that some of the fuel has begun to melt. Government and company officials said fuel melting has almost certainly occurred in that reactor, which can increase releases of radioactive material through the water and steam that escapes from the container vessel.

In a worst case scenario, the fuel pellets could also burn through the bottom of the containment vessel and radioactive material could pour out that way - often referred to as a full meltdown. 

"There is a possibility that the fuel rods are heating up and starting to melt," said a Tokyo Electric spokesman late last night, in a news conference televised on public broadcaster NHK. "It is our understanding that we have possible damage to the fuel rods."

The extreme challenge of managing reactor No 2 came as officials were still struggling to keep the cores of two other reactors, No 1 and No 3, covered with seawater. There was no immediate indication that either of those two reactors had experienced a crisis as serious as that at No 2.

By last night, officials said that radiation readings around the plant reached 3,130 micro Sievert - the highest yet detected at the Daiichi facility since the quake and six times the legal limit.

A Tokyo Electric official had then described the situation as improving. "We do not feel that a critical event is imminent," he told a press conference.

Industry executives in America who were in touch with their counterparts in Japan last night grew increasingly alarmed about the risks posed by the No 2 reactor. 

"They're basically in a full-scale panic" among Japanese power industry managers, said a senior nuclear industry executive. "They're in total disarray, they don't know what to do."

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