Mar 14th, 2011 1:56pm CST
For every reassuring statement we hear regarding the situation at Fukushima, there is an equally disturbing set of new releases.
From the Sydney Morning Herald:
"Engineers had begun pumping seawater into the reactor at the facility, the third reactor to receive the last-ditch treatment, after the plant's emergency cooling system had failed and the fuel rods
had been partially exposed to the air.
But apparently something went wrong and the injection of water failed. Workers were scrambling to re-immerse the fuel assembly before more damage is done to the reactor core.
No one knows how much damage has been done to the fuel rods, either in this reactor, No.2, or in reactors No.1 and No.3, where engineers began pumping in seawater over the weekend.
Officials have called the situation a partial meltdown because they have detected minute quantities of radioactive caesium and iodine - byproducts of the nuclear fission that powers the reactor - outside the plant.
That may mean simply that the zirconium cladding that sheathes the uranium fuel pellets has cracked due to heat from being exposed to the air, allowing small quantities of the radionuclides to escape, or it may mean that the fuel pellets themselves have partially melted.
As long as the reactor containment vessel remains intact, however, no one will know until workers can physically examine the fuel rods for damage."