Radiation Leak & Reactor Container Damage Feared

Mar 16, 2011, 07:45

Radiation leak fears continue to increase on Wednesday after another explosion rocked the Fukushima plant on Japan's Northeaster coastline. New problems at the plant's No. 3 and No. 4 reactors sent white fumes, which could be radioactive steam, into the air.

Leading Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, the government's main spokesman, has cautioned that there is "a possibility that the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel is damaged," Kyodo News reported.

There had been an explosion Tuesday at the Number 3 unit.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant's operator, considered helicopter-borne boric acid spraying at No. 4 reactor where there were threats of spent nuclear fuel rods melting, setting off a dangerous chain reaction as the water level in a pool holding those rods were feared to have dropped.

Flames were reported at the No. 4 reactor Wednesday morning but they died down 30 minutes later. The extent of damage from the fire was not immediately known.

The utility, most of whose 800 workers have been evacuated because of the growing threat, had earlier warned of the risk of higher levels of radioactive materials from No. 4. Other reports said about 50 workers remained at the site.

The government has ordered injection of Pacific Ocean water to cool down the exposed rods "to avert a major nuclear disaster," Kyodo said.

"'The possibility of recriticality is not zero," the utility said Wednesday referring to the danger of the exposed fuel rods releasing more radioactivity.

To compound the problems at Fukushima, an estimated 70 percent of the nuclear fuel rods was estimated to have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor and 33 percent at No. 2. The cores at both reactors were believed to have partially melted.

One scientist expressed deep to CNN about the remaining workers at the plant.

"It's pretty clear that they will be getting very high doses of radiation. There's certainly the potential for lethal doses of radiation. They know it, and I think you have to call these people heroes," said David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University.

Source: UPI