Steam rising from reactor building in Fukushima

TOKYO Thu Jul 18, 2013 12:47am EDT

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TOKYO (Reuters) - Steam is rising from a destroyed building that houses a reactor at Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said on Thursday.

The utility, widely known as Tepco, said the levels of radioactivity around the plant had remained unchanged and it was still looking into what triggered the emission.

"We think it's possible that rain made its way through the reactor building and having fallen on the primary containment vessel, which is hot, evaporated creating steam," said Tepco spokeswoman Maymi Yoshida, adding it was still investigating the matter.

Each reactor is surrounded by a primary containment vessel. This is made of strengthened steel four to eight inches thick. It provides the most critical line of defense against leaking radiation from the reactor.

A massive earthquake and tsunami in 2011 killed nearly 20,000 people and set off the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years when the Fukushima plant was destroyed causing reactor meltdowns, hydrogen explosions and leaking radiation into the sea and air.

The steam rising from the reactor No.3 building was spotted at 8:20 am (2320 GMT on Wednesday) by a subcontractor who was filming the destroyed building and preparing to remove rubble from the site. It was still visible some two hours later, Yoshida said.

The latest findings underscore the difficulties Tepco is facing in trying to keep the ravaged plant under control. About a week ago a huge spike in radioactive cesium was detected in groundwater 25 meters from the sea.

The operator has been flushing water over the damaged reactors to keep them cool for more than two years, but contaminated water has been building up at the rate of an Olympic-size swimming pool per week.

In April, Tepco warned it may run out of space to store the water and asked for approval to channel what it has described groundwater with low levels of radiation around the plant and to the sea through a "bypass". Local fishermen oppose the proposal.

(This story was refiled to correct GMT timing in 6th paragraph to 2320 GMT on Wednesday, not 0520 GMT)

(Editing by Ed Davies)

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Comments (2)
freddykruger wrote:
The Russians sealed off their nuclear melt down reactor. why don’t the ignorant Japanese do this before they genocide their whole country!

Jul 18, 2013 1:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
lushr wrote:
@reddykruger Fukushima is in a different place than Chernobyl was. Chernobyl suffered a graphite/steam explosion, causing the core to become disrupted and falling from criticality. Because of that, the core was pretty stable after the accident. In contrast, Fukushima suffered from a core melt, where some part of the core actually melted. Because of this, and of the still-intact core geometry, the Fukushima reactors are more energetic than the Chernobyl ones were.

If TEPCO were to entomb the reactors now, it’s likely that they would overheat and go into a complete meltdown. This meltdown would most likely be too energetic to be fully contained by the structure, making active cooling a better option.

Jul 18, 2013 10:52pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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