Bloomberg Businessweek has reported that it may be too soon to tell if the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant survived the latest 7.1 magnitude aftershock unscathed, and that "The main fear is more structural damage." Additional nuclear power and radioactive waste facilities in Japan, however, did lose power from the electrical grid and have been forced to rely on backup power systems such as emergency diesel generators. The article reports that "The Rokkasho nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant and the Higashidori nuclear power plant lost power and were operating on backup diesel generators, the [Japanese federal] nuclear safety agency said today in a statement. Two of three power lines to the Onagawa nuclear power plant also were disabled, it said." Rokkasho, on the very northern tip of the main island of Japan, includes a high-level radioactive waste storage pool holding thousands of tons of ultra-hazardous irradiated nuclear fuel. Higashidori, not far from Rokkasho, currently has one operating atomic reactor, although three more are planned for the site. Onagawa, not far to the north of Fukushima Daiichi, has three operating reactors; it was initially plunged into crisis during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
What is the status of each of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's reactor units and high-level radioactive waste storage pools?
The chaos of the still unfolding Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe has made staying on top of the details complex and confusing. The New York Times regularly updates a reactor by reactor status report, and the International Atomic Energy Agency also posts daily reports on both reactors and pools. This includes an IAEA daily chart on the status of all six units' reactors and pools at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Also, Beyond Nuclear has obtained a copy of the "RST [U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Reactor Safety Team] Assessment of Fukushima Daiichi Units," the very document that the New York Times publicly revealed yesterday, upon which Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety director, David Lochbaum, provided expert commentary. As Lochbaum said, "I thought they were, not out of the woods, but at least at the edge of the woods...This paints a very different picture, and suggests that things are a lot worse. They could still have more damage in a big way if some of these things don't work out for them."
The New York Times has prepared an artist's graphic showing both the pathways of intentional radioactively contaminated water releases into the ocean, as well as the most likely pathway that highly radioactively contaminated water is leaking into the ocean.
The straw that broke the camel's back? Weight of emergency cooling water, force of aftershocks, could further damage Fukushima's vital containment systems
The New York Times has reported that the stress from large quantities of emergency cooling water in Fukushima Daiichi reactor blocks could exacerbate the violent force exerted by powerful aftershocks, further risking breach of vital containment structures holding back the motherlode of radioactivity from escaping into the environment. Meanwhile, nearly a month after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, police are at long last entering the 12 mile radius radiological evacuation zone, in search of 4,200 missing persons.