"Fire at fourth reactor complicates effort of last 50 workers to cool multiple nuclear plants"
Reuters: Japan crisis now seen worse than Three Mile Island
A second fire was discovered Wednesday in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the latest in a series of setbacks at the stricken plant that has heightened fears that the incidents could lead to widespread radiation contamination.
The 50 workers who have stayed behind to stave off catastrophe are true heroes. But they now have 6 reactors to focus on.
As the NYT reported 8:39 pm EDT, beyond the “the three stricken reactors, Nos. 1, 2 and 3, where overheated fuel rods continued to boil away the water at a brisk pace” during much of the day, “Concern remained high about the storage pools at that [4th] reactor and at two other reactors, Nos. 5 and 6.”
For Japan news junkies, here is the live stream from NHK WORLD TV, a 24-hour English language news channel:
It can get quite repetitious, but I suppose that’s the point.
If you want more background on the issue of the spent fuel ponds, here is the audio of a news conference from Monday, which I thought was pretty good.
Reuters posted a piece at 8:51 pm EDT, “Analysis: Japan nuclear crisis now seen worse than Three Mile,” which I think was kind of obvious by Monday morning:
Conditions at a stricken nuclear power plant in Japan have deteriorated so much that there is a growing consensus the crisis is greater than the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and there are fears that it could get significantly worse.
Academics and nuclear experts agree that the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are grave, and the solutions being proposed are last-ditch efforts to stem what could well be remembered as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
All six reactors at the complex have problems — be it blown-out roofs, potentially cracked containment structures, exposed fuel rods or just the risk of explosion that has been great enough to force emergency measures.
Of particular concern are a fire in a massive pool holding spent atomic fuel rods and a blast at the building housing the pool and reactor No.4. The pool is exposed to the elements unlike the reactor core which is protected in steel and concrete.
“I would say that it has now eclipsed the Three Mile Island accident but it is not a Chernobyl,” said Keith Holbert, director of the Nuclear Power Generation Program at Arizona State University and an associate professor there….
Several experts said that Japanese authorities were underplaying the severity of the incident, particular on a scale called INES used to rank nuclear incidents. The Japanese have so far rated the accident a four on a one-to-seven scale against Three Mile at a five and Chernobyl at a seven….
“This is a slow-moving nightmare,” said Dr Thomas Neff, a research affiliate at the Center for International Studies, which is part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “This could be a five or a six — it’s premature to say since this event is not over yet.”
Experts said that international politics is starting to become evident in the international pressure being put on the Japanese. France’s nuclear safety authority ASN said Tuesday it should be classed as a level-six incident.
So right now there are 50 exhausted and probably irradiated workers standing between the world and another Chernobyl.