Japanese officials conceded today they might have to entomb the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in a sarcophagus of sand or concrete in order to contain the radiation. It's a last resort, but acknowledging it's possible is a sign that matters are still not improving at the stricken plant.
Engineers are still hoping to restore power and restart water pumps to cool the overheating fuel rods, according to Reuters. Workers have been spraying the hardest-hit reactors with water, using boats and helicopters. Four of the power plant's six reactors have experienced fires, explosions or partial meltdowns.
Even if power can be restored, there's no guarantee the pumps will work. Much of the plant was heavily damaged in the quake, tsunami and resulting explosions, and the voluminous amount of acid-laced seawater that workers have been pumping in may have corroded equipment further.
"It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first," an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said at a news conference.
This was the procedure at the Chernobyl reactor after it exploded in 1986. The reactor was covered with sand, lead and boric acid dropped from a helicopter, whose pilot was hailed as a hero for his efforts (he died four years later of leukemia, a result of radiation poisoning). The radiation at Fukushima Daiichi is nowhere near that at Chernobyl.
Meanwhile, Japan raised the nuclear crisis' severity rating to Level 5 on the seven-level INES international scale. That's on par with the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Reuters said. Some experts argue Japan's situation is more serious, however. Chernobyl was a 7 on that scale.
Even if Japanese officials decide to bury the plant, they will still have to cool it off first, according to an adviser to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission who spoke to CBS News.
One week after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, at least 6,500 people are confirmed dead and 10,300 are missing. Nearly 400,000 people are homeless.
Japanese officials hope to restore power to pumps for reactors 1, 2 and 4 by Saturday, according to Reuters.
As recovery efforts continue it has become obvious the the earthquake itself caused no significant damage. It was graft and corruption that allowed normal anti tsunami measures to be bypassed that caused the problem. Saving a coupla nickels by putting the diesels and fuel in the way of a Tsunami that was 100% probable given the geological history of the area was something only a corrupt liaison between businessmen and regulatory bureaucrat with a gambling habit would undertake.
While modern Gen III reactors would have survived corruptions best efforts, it will be really hard to restart the nuke renaissance with the massive nobrain greenie bashlash sure to occur.
Perhaps now somebody (hello Dr. Chu are you listening?) will now get behind the Molten Salt Reactor.
David LeBlanc at the U of Ottawa has redesigned the Molten salt reactor which would resolve all safety and cost issues with nuclear. This tech was actually build and ran in a reactor for many years - even flown around on an airplane. By using existing nuclear waste for fuel it could power the world for hundreds of years.
All it needs is $5B, 5 years, and a place to build em , and factory produced units would be streaming out fast enough to eliminate fossil fuels in 5 years.
Big Oil knows this and has purchased the politicians (yes Dr, Chu we know) to make sure no development happens. Even Bill Gates can't find a place to build to his derivative TerraPower unit.
The Chinese at least have seen the light and are starting a MSR program.
Wow, I didn't know that about the helicoptor pilot at Chernobyl. Serious hero material right there!
The U.S. Navy recently tested a UAV cargo helicopter that can lift 4400lbs. It was developed with Lookheed and its called the K-MAX. It is unmanned and remote controlled. It could therefore get very close to the Japanese Nuclear reactor for visual inspection and to precisely dump water. It cant hold the capacity of a Chinook Helicopter but would be much much more accurate. Why isnt the U.S. military telling this to anyone? Im writing here to get the word out.
I wish we could have stage IV nuclear plants ready to go. They offer the most hope for mankind in operating at 1800 degree Farenheit they can produce all the hydrogen we would ever need for hydrogen fuel celled cars.
A clear win win if all the worlds nuclear plants were upgraded to stage IV.
They are melt down proof and require no water for cooling to prevent a melt down. Plus they are easier to dispose of although just as 'hot' after use.
I suspect these will be ready to go long before fusion every gets off the ground. I don't expect fusion to be of any help for at least another 100 years. It's already been 50 and there no closer to producing power.
This is japan we are talkng about, where is Asimo when you need him?
@ Hamletxi I think you have the right idea they should develop a critical capability of remote helicopter control to be prepared for this situation again. This will happen again and if we have the tools this will never be another Chernobyl.
Could one of the reactors have been put on line after they realized the back up power diesel generators were disabled by the Tsunami? If so, then they over reacted by not using one of the reactors as power. If another shock wave took it off power then one of the other reactors could have been prepared in turn until the diesel engines were fixed or other powers lines were put in place. Was total shutoff the right position without power backup?
if there was a way to power the plant with one of the reactors don't you think it would have happened?