"Japan Raises Possibility of Breach in Reactor Vessel"

"TOKYO — Japan’s effort to contain the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a setback, an official said on Friday, citing evidence that the reactor vessel of the No. 3 unit may have been damaged.

The development, described at a news conference by Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, raises the possibility that radiation from the mox fuel in the reactor — a combination of uranium and plutonium — could be released.

One sign that a breach may have occurred in the reactor vessel, Mr. Nishiyama said, took place on Thursday when three workers who were trying to connect an electrical cable to a pump in a turbine building next to the reactor were injured when they stepped into water that was found to be significantly more radioactive than normal in a reactor. The No. 3 unit, the only one of the six reactors at the site that uses the mox fuel, was damaged by a hydrogen explosion on March 14. Workers have been seeking to keep it cool by spraying it with seawater along with a more recent effort to restart the reactor’s cooling system."

David Jolly and Hiroko Tabuchi report for the New York Times March 25, 2011.

Source: NY Times, 03/25/2011