Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) verifies a long suspected theory: complete nuclear meltdown confirmed in the No. 1 reactor.
On Thursday, just over four years since a deadly earthquake and subsequent tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) confirmed a long suspected theory: complete meltdown in the No. 1 reactor.
TEPCO and the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decomissioning (IRID) have been studying the interior of the reactor using tomographic imagery to determine precisely where the fuel is — or, in this case, isn’t — located.
The xray-like images confirmed no fuel remained in the building itself, likely having melted through the floor into a holding unit below.
“We presume that despite the meltdown, the fuel is still in the containment vessel,” said Tomohisa Ito, spokesman for IRID, “but we still need to directly check the situation one day using remote-controlled robots.”
TEPCO has faced major obstacles in the battle to contain the radioactive disaster. Immediately after the plant was knocked offline — which some suspect may have started with the earthquake instead of the ensuing tsunami — hydrogen explosions spread radioactive winds over an area wide enough to have warranted more significant evacuations than were actually carried out.
Japan’s leaders — at first unaware the technology was ready and available to track this emission — downplayed the severity of the problem in what is seen by many as a PR issue for a country so heavily reliant on atomic energy.
A massive influx of groundwater has further complicated the issue.
Rain from the site and from further inland naturally permeates the soil and makes its way to the sea, but it’s pouring into the basements of the buildings which house the reactors. At a rate of 75 gallons per minute, groundwater pours into the basements — which have been deemed to risky for humans to enter — where it mixes with tainted cooling water from cracks in the reactors and becomes highly radioactive.
How to best contain this waste water is an open question, as the enormous tanks designed for that purpose are notoriously faulty — even though they continue to be built for that purpose.
In February, the discovery was made that TEPCO had knowledge of cesium-laced water leaking directly into the ocean from a drainage ditch it was using for runoff from the roof of Sector 2. The company had known about this for ten months, but failed to release the information.
Four years after this began, TEPCO has developed a plan for containment, but the company’s history of secrecy and deception about the actual scope of the problem have many people doubting its efficacy.
First, filters would be installed in the ground to collect the leaking water, filter the radiation, and then pump it back out to sea. Second, an enormous ice wall would be created in the ground as a fortress around the basements to prevent further groundwater from creeping in. Tests will be conducted once construction gets underway.
News of complete meltdown officially makes Fukushima the second worst nuclear disaster next to Chernobyl.
Reactors No. 2 and 3 are also scheduled for imaging, and it is widely suspected complete meltdown will be discovered in both locations.