May 13, 2011 (Japan) Officials at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), operator of the hard-hit Fukushima nuclear facility, yesterday publicly confirmed that a meltdown has occurred at Reactor number one.
Now Japan’s nuclear safety agency states that efforts to cool the reactor with water may be pointless, since fuel rods are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of the containment vessel—where highly radioactive water is now leaking through holes at the bottom, Japan’s NHK World news agency reports.
The Japanese government today approved a plan to issue bonds to help TEPCO pay damage claims which some estimates predict could reach $130 billion or more, Reuters reports.
TEPCO has said it is not concerned about an explosion. But others have voiced grave concerns.
Shaun Burnie, nuclear adviser to Greenpeace Germany, said very large amounts of cold water hitting the melted fuel could cause an explosion, trigger substantial damage to the reactor and create a "high risk of atmospheric release running for days, if not weeks." He added: "I think [the flooding option] will now be scrapped." Greenpeace said problems could escalate rapidly if the fuel melted through the reactor vessel, the London Guardian reports.
John Large, an independent nuclear engineering consultant in London, said Tepco's plan to flood the reactor was riddled with "potential risks". It appeared not to have factored in the extent of damage to the fuel rods and the structural state of the containment vessel, including whether it was watertight, the Guardian reported.
Reuters confirms that the disaster was “worse than previously disclosed” and indicates a concrete containment wall may be built around all four failed reactors at Fukushima, a process that could take years.
Officials have not disclosed the severity of potential radiation leakage into seawater or groundwater, or the long-term impacts of the situation.
Meanwhile, Japan Today reports the government has ordered slaughter of hundreds of thousands of livestock animals that have been abandoned and left starving within the evacuation zone. This includes Minamisoma’s Odaka district, where 887 cows, 80 horses, about 6,200 pigs and around 260,000 chickens were reportedly raised last year.