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« Beyond Nuclear “Freeze Our Fukushimas” petition accepted in part by NRC: Prompts deeper investigation of GE Mark I reactors | Main | Japanese officials withheld radioactive fallout patterns: “akin to murder” »
Thursday
Aug182011

Reports indicate Fukushima nuclear crisis worsening and widening

As the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe that began on March 11, 2011 now continues beyond 161 days, news accounts indicate that the accident maybe worsening and the scope of radioactive contamination widening.

One source states that Tokyo Electric Power Company workers are blowing the whistle on numerous cracks have opened up in the ground around the stricken reactors releasing highly radioactive steam into the area, forcing workers to retreat. The highly radioactive steam would be further evidence that three of the destroyed Fukushima reactor units not only melted down through the reactor vessels but one or more of the molten cores may have now burned through concrete floors and entered into the earth below. This would essentially qualify the multi-unit nuclear accident under the so-called “China Syndrome.”

If these anonymous workers’ reports can be corroborated, this would be further proof that the nuclear catastrophe is still seriously out of control and in fact worsening. It also renews concern about the possibility of an additional hydrogen explosion as a result of the corium (super-hot melted nuclear fuel) coming into contact with subsurface ground water, generating steam and if hot enough, chemically separating out water into its elemental form of explosive hydrogen and oxygen.

In the widening catastrophe, the Japanese Mainichi Daily News reports that excessive amounts of radioactive cesium contamination have been measured more than 62 miles west of the destroyed reactor site in sludge samples taken from a ditch in front of a district court in Fukushima Prefecture. Radioactivity levels were recorded at 186,000 becquerels per kilogram where Japanese government standards now permit no more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of cesium contaminated materials to be hauled off and dumped in ordinary landfills. Further news stories report that Chinese territorial waters in the East China Sea are at increasing risk of radioactive contamination of sea food by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. Chinese authorities are increasing sea water monitoring following findings of 300 times permissible levels of radioactive cesium-137 and 100 times permissible levels for radioactive strontium-90.

Separately, on July 28, 2011, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Task Force on the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe reported at its public meeting that highly radioactive reactor fuel fragments and particles previously found more than one and a half miles away from the reactor site are pieces of fuel rods forcefully ejected from the one or more of the reactor cores and not as many had speculated to be fragments of “spent” fuel ejected from the GE Mark I roof top storage pools during one of the four explosions. Dr. Gary Holahan, the NRC Deputy Director of New Reactors, is quoted in the agency’s official transcript at page 63 to say, “You know, although the -- we don't consider this a technical report on the details of what happened at Fukushima. I think, you know, a very reasonable working hypothesis -- I don't want to get too definitive on it, but, you know, ascribing these dispersed radioactive materials in various forms on the site, you know, it most likely appears they were from the reactor cores rather than spent fuel pools. I think we have to wait for a definitive answer, but things like the amount of iodine in the, you know, in the radiological material that was dispersed are generally indicative of core damage as opposed to spent fuel pool damage.”  The preliminary finding revealed by a top NRC senior manager indicates that at least one of four hydrogen explosions during the first days of the accident simultaneously ripped entirely through the reactors’ multiple barrier system; the reactor vessel, the reactor’s primary containment component and finally, the reactor building.