Japan’s Race to Cool Nuclear Fuel Rods

Posted by By at 14 March, at 16 : 57 PM Print

In what can truly be described as an all out effort, scientists and engineers in Japan are working feverishly to cool down fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. An effort that started a couple of days ago was further complicated by a second explosion on Monday destroying an outer building to what is known as unit 3. 11 people were injured in that blast.

The one silver lining, the explosion has not damaged the core containment. However, Japanese government officials have told national media outlets that the third reactor has lost its ability to cool, and will make it even more difficult to prevent a partial meltdown; Fukushima has six nuclear reactors and three have lost the automatic ability to cool down; the latest explosion is a direct result of hydrogen building up.

A former Commissioner at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Victor Gilinsky, told the Washington Post that temperatures at the core had to top 2,000 degrees. ‘”That’s the significance of the hydrogen – it means there was serious fuel damage and probably melting.” said Gilinsky, who as at the NRC was Three Mile Island experienced a partial meltdown in 1979.

Japan’s nuclear agency is warning anyone within 12 miles of Fukushima to stay indoors, and has reported higher levels of radiation than normal inside and outside the plant. The thought is that the contamination area is quite large.

Attempts to cool the rods using sea water has had at best minimal impact, as of earlier water levels had only risen high enough to cover about half the fuel rods.

The confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami stands at about 1900 and government authorities fear as many as 10,000 people are dead. Japan has 55 nuclear power plants and you can see the list by clicking on Rock The Capital.

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