Revelations of 1,300 fuel rods weighing 400 tons which need to be removed from Fukushima reactor number 4 last week, created cause for more than alarm; a major disaster is now an extreme possibility. They must be removed by hand, and one at a time. While Japan and the world wait, many are asking; ‘Is Fukushima headed for a meltdown?
Tuesday, TEPCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company, which is charge of the clean-up, admitted that at least 300 tons of ‘highly contaminated’ water has been released into the ocean, and it is continuing. All of the storage tanks for contaminated water used to cool the fuel rods have been full for some time. Makeshift receptacles have been used and are overflowing. TEPCO said that until Monday morning they had not believed that the ‘highly contaminated’ water had flowed into the Pacific Ocean.
A spokesman says that about 300 tons of water are leaking each day, and that it is a very real possibility that the leakage has been constant since the tsunami destroyed much of the Fukushima plant and caused a triple meltdown on March 11, 2011, after a 9.0 earthquake struck off the Japanese coast.
An official from Japan’s nuclear regulation authority said: “We have instructed TEPCO to find the source of contaminated water – from which tank the water is leaking – and to seal the leakage point.
“We have also instructed them to retrieve contaminated soil to avoid a further expansion of toxic water, and to strengthen monitoring of the surrounding environment.”
But, is it too late?
The incident in 2011 was given a severity level of ‘7,’ the same as Chernobyl 25 years earlier. Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency gives this a level ‘1.’
What is being called a puddle, was discovered near one of the storage tanks, registered 100 millisieverts an hour; five times the annual exposure limit for nuclear plant workers in Japan.
TEPCO’s inability has caused Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to lose faith in the company, and is beginning to believe they will be unable to secure the situation without the assistance of the government.
Other nations are voicing serious concerns regarding seepage into the Pacific, primarily South Korea.
The question to be asked is; ‘if TEPCO cannot control the contaminated water, should they be trusted to remove the more dangerous fuel rods?’
One incident with a fuel rod could begin a chain reaction that would be unstoppable, resulting in an even more serious meltdown.
James Turnage Reporting