Japan Reactors Cool Down
Attempts are on full swing to cool down the stricken reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant by dumping seawater. Japanese military helicopters dumps loads of seawater onto a stricken nuclear complex Thursday, trying to cool dangerously overheated uranium fuel rods that may be on the verge of spewing more radiation into the atmosphere.
Residents within 30 kilometers (19 miles) were advised to evacuate. About 70,000 people have been evacuated from a 20-kilomtre radius around Fukushima Daiichi, and another 140,000 living within a 20 to 30 kilometre radius ordered to stay indoors. The CH-47 Chinook helicopters were deployed to douse the No.3 reactor in an attempt to cool an overheating pool for spent fuel rods and prevent it from releasing dangerous radioactive steam. Helicopters, flying at less than 300 feet, are dumping loads of water on the reactor, although a significant quantity was missing the target.
Water supply at reactors No. 1 and No. 3 stabilized and radiation readings at the front gate of the plant dropped to a level that isn’t “harmful to the human body,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said this afternoon. The ministry said it planned to release at least 12 more loads in the 40 minutes that each crew can remain in the area before experiencing limited radiation exposure. The aim of the operation is twofold: to cool the reactor and replenish a pool containing spent fuel rods. Although TEPCO has been unable to take precise measurements, the pool is thought to be almost empty of water, raising the risk that the fuel rods will overheat and melt.
Earlier, Gregory Jackzo, chairman of the US nuclear regulatory commission told a congressional hearing in Washington that the storage pool at another reactor had lost all of its water and was in danger of spewing more radioactive material. “We are afraid that the water level at the No 4 reactor is the lowest,” said Hikaru Kuroda, a TEPCO official. But he added, “Because we cannot get near it, the only way to monitor the situation is visually from far away.”
At lunchtime on Thursday the police stood ready to spray the No 3 reactor from 11 water cannon trucks, as the focus of the crisis shifted from overheating reactors to the potentially more dangerous predicament of the storage pools. The roofs of the No 3 and No 4 reactors were blown away by hydrogen explosions earlier this week, depriving them of a last line of defence against potentially dangerous radiation leaks.
In the worst-case scenario, overheating fuel rods could heat up to the point where they begin to melt and release high levels of radioactivity. TEPCO said it was attempting to open a temporary power line to the plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo, which would allow it to pump water directly into the storage pools and reactor cores.
Japan’s nuclear safety agency said it hoped the power supply would be partially operational on Thursday afternoon. “Once we establish the temporary power supply we will be able to pump seawater into the reactors,” a Tepco spokesman said. “We believe the operation will help cool down the fuel pools,” the defence minister, Toshimi Kitazawa told reporters. “Ideally we want to repeat the exercise as many times as possible, but we also have to consider the health risks to our troops.”
Each helicopter is capable of carrying 7.5 tonnes of water at a time, but the pools each hold 2,000 tonnes, an expert told public broadcaster NHK. But he added: “It will be possible as long as the rods are fully submerged. That means the storage pool would need to be about a third full. But the dousing has to be done repeatedly.”
About 1.3 million households were without power in Japan and 1.4 million had no running water, according to a government report on the earthquake. More than 2,000 people are confirmed dead since the earthquake and tsunami hit the northeastern part of Japan, Deputy Cabinet Secretary for Public Relations Noriyuki Shikata said.
I do not know if there are words to properly describe the level of devastation embodied in these photos from Japan. Let us help them in simple ways we can and most important of all, let us not forget to pray for Japan everyday. Let us pray the most High to wipe their tears and provide them every blessing and help they need.