"Japan Nuclear Plant May Be Worse Off Than Thought"

"TOKYO — The damage to one of three stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant could be worse than previously thought, a recent internal investigation has shown, raising new concerns over the plant’s stability and complicating the post-disaster cleanup."

"The government has said that the plant’s three badly damaged reactors have been in a relatively stable state, called a cold shutdown, for months, and officials say that continues. But new tests suggest that the plant — which was ravaged last March when a powerful earthquake and tsunami hit the area — might not be as stable as the government or the operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, had hoped.

The key to keeping the reactors stable is keeping their fuel rods cool with water.

The company announced this week that an examination of one reactor, No. 2, showed that the water level in an outer containment vessel was far lower than estimated, which could indicate that the already badly damaged uranium fuel might not be completely submerged and, therefore, is in danger of heating up.

Cooling water in that vessel, called the drywell, was just two feet deep, rather than the 33-foot level estimated by Tepco officials when the government declared the plant stable in December. That is probably not a problem for the fuel that the company says has leaked into the drywell from an inner containment vessel because Tepco says that melted fuel is unlikely to be higher than two feet."

Hiroko Tabuchi reports for the New York Times March 29, 2012.

SEE ALSO:

"Beware The Myth of (Nuclear) Safety" (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

"Tepco Faces Revolt Over Price Rise" (Financial Times)

"Japan Tallies Upheaval's Toll" (Wall St. Journal)

"Japan Asks Chubu Electric to Reassess Safety of Hamaoka Plant" (Bloomberg)

"Back to the Drawing Board for Controversial Reactor" (WSJ/Japan Realtime)

"Chubu Electric Told 18 Ft Seawall Not Enough Protection at Hamaoka Nuclear" (Enformable)

Japan Storm Kills 4, Stops Pumps at Two Nuke Plants (Guardian)

"FOCUS: Japan Alternative Energy Investment Stalled Amid Uncertainty" (Dow Jones/Wall St. Journal)

"Japan Misses Deadline To Create New Nuclear Regulatory Body" (AP)

"Japan Nuclear Fuel Restarts Reconstruction of MOX Plant" (Mainichi Daily News)

"Japan To Push Anti-Terror Measures at Nuke Plants" (AP)

"Japan Holds Off On Decision To Restart Reactors" (Reuters)

Source: NY Times, 04/04/2012