As a radiation metrology and nuclear safety expert at Kyoto University‘s Research Reactor Institute, Hiroaki Koide has been critical of how the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) have handled the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Below, he shares what he thinks may happen in the coming weeks, months and years.
TEPCO says it is aiming to bring the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors to cold shutdown by January 2012.
It would be one thing to aim for this in April, when the government had yet to confirm that a meltdown had indeed taken place.
But what is the point of “aiming for cold shutdown” now, when we know that fuel is no longer sound?
The nuclear disaster is ongoing.
Immediately after the crisis first began to unfold, I thought that we’d see a definitive outcome within a week.
However, with radioactive materials yet to be contained, we’ve remained in the unsettling state of not knowing how things are going to turn out.
Without accurate information about what’s happening inside the reactors, there’s a need to consider various scenarios. At present, I believe that there is a possibility that massive amounts of radioactive materials will be released into the environment again.
Contaminated water was found flowing through cracks near an intake canal, but I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I believe that contaminated water is still leaking underground, where we can’t see it.
What can be done?
I believe immediate action must be taken to build underground water barriers that would close off the nuclear power plant to the outside world and prevent radioactive materials from spreading.
It’s doubtful that there’s even a need to keep pouring water into the No.1 reactor, where nuclear fuel is suspected to have burned through the pressure vessel.
Meanwhile, it is necessary to keep cooling the No. 2 and 3 reactors, which are believed to still contain some fuel, but the cooling system itself is unstable.
If the fuel were to become overheated again and melt, coming into contact with water and trigger a steam explosion, more radioactive materials will be released.
Recovering the melted nuclear fuel is another huge challenge. I can’t even imagine how that could be done.
With Fukushima, there is a possibility that nuclear fuel has fallen into the ground, in which case it will take 10 or 20 years to recover it.
We are now head to head with a situation that mankind has never faced before.
- Periodic inspection Sendai Nuclear Power Plant – Kyushu Electric Power fuel retrieval work video (enformable.com)
- TEPCO Releases New Before and After Photos Of Stricken Fukushima Daiichi Plant (enformable.com)
- Kyoto U. expert: Melted fuel may have sunk into ground – “We are now head to head with a situation that mankind has never faced before” (enenews.com)
- Spent Fuel in Number 1 Reactor Thought Not As Badly Damaged As Reactor Core (enformable.com)
- Status of Reactor 1 Sarcophagus Construction (enformable.com)
- In ‘uncharted territory,’ TEPCO drafts fuel-removal plan – Containers for damaged reactor buildings not to be constructed until 2015 (enformable.com)
- Japanese Cabinet received advice predicting that the fuel would be damaged and the pressure vessels would be breached on March 11 (enformable.com)
- You: No. 3 reactor cooling down: Tepco (search.japantimes.co.jp)
- TEPCO to build iron wall on ocean side of Fukushima Daiichi plant to prevent radioactive water leaks (enformable.com)
- Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 – 10 days after the earthquake disaster view on core re-melting (enformable.com)
- TEPCO: Unknown amount of ‘radioactive materials’ leaking from Reactor No. 3 (enenews.com)
- TEPCO Changes Reactor 3 Cooling Methods to Cool Slumped Fuel Coore (enformable.com)