Fukushima: technicians lose control of two more reactors

Two more reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan are reported to have lost cooling functions March 15, as technicians continue their struggle to contain what threatens to become a meltdown. Reactors Number 5 and Number 6 now appear to going out of control, with rises in temperature recorded. This follows explosions at reactors 1, 3, and 2 since March 12, as well as a fire now reported at reactor Number 4. Technicians have now lost control of all six reactors at the plant. Additionally, the water in the plant’s waste fuel storage pool may be boiling due to loss of coolant, officials said.

Radiation rose to harmful levels at the facility following the last blast at reactor Number 2 earlier March 15, prompting cabinet minister Yukio Edano to issue warnings. The levels have apparently dropped again as radiation released by the blast was dissipated, allowing Edano to say: “This high level of radiation is just temporarily reading so in the long run it is not particularly dangerous and the reading is now getting lower.”

However, the wind, formerly blowing out to the Pacific, has shifted south towards Tokyo, bringing snow which could carry at least low-level radioactivity to Japan’s capital megalopolis. (Radio Australia, AP, Reuters, Bloomberg, March 15)

World Nuclear News reports that “cold shut-down” has been achieved at two reactors at the nearby Fukushima Dai-ni plant, meaning risk of meltdown at that plant has been avoided. Despite some confusion in Western media accounts due to the similarity in the plants’ names, none of the reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi have been brought under control.

Dai-ishi reactors 5 and 6 are apparently losing coolant now because the emergency diesel generators for these units, which had continued to function, are failing. States Michael Mariotte of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS): “Such generators aren’t designed to last indefinitely so unless grid power is restored those reactors will have problems too as the generators conk out.”

See our last post on the nuclear crisis.

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