Japan quake live blog: 'Extremely high' radiation at Japan plant, U.S. agency says
Japanese Self-Defence Force soldiers look for victims Wednesday amid debris in Natori in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan.
March 16th, 2011
11:05 PM ET

Japan quake live blog: 'Extremely high' radiation at Japan plant, U.S. agency says

A magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit northern Japan early Friday, triggering tsunamis that caused widespread devastation and crippled a nuclear power plant. Are you in an affected area? Send an iReport. Read the full report on the quake's aftermath and check out our interactive explainer on Japan's damaged nuclear reactors.

[11:55 p.m. ET Wednesday, 12:55 p.m. Thursday in Tokyo] A Tokyo Electric Power company official said Thursday that - based on information gathered from a helicopter that flew over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Wednesday - authorities believe that there is water in a key fuel pool outside one of the plant's most troubled reactors.

"We have been able to confirm that there is water in the spent nuclear fuel pool," the official told reporters about the plant's No. 4 reactor. "But we do not know how much water."

Hours earlier, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission testified that spent fuel rods in Unit 4 of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant had been exposed, resulting in the emission of "extremely high" levels of radiation.

In addition, authorities announced the number of dead from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan has risen to 5,178.

As of 10 a.m. Thursday (9 p.m. Wednesday ET), 8,606 people were missing and 2,285 were injured, the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters said.

[11:05 p.m. ET Wednesday, 12:05 p.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Japanese Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa said that he and Prime Minister Naoto Kan decided early Thursday to commence the operation to drop water over the Fukushima Daiichi plant's No. 3 nuclear reactor. They also decided to send water-cannon trucks to the scene to spray water at the No. 3 reactor from the ground.

The plan to drop water from above had been aborted Wednesday, due to concerns about high radiation levels.

"We could not delay the mission any further, therefore we decided to execute it," Kitazawa told reporters.

[10:40 p.m. ET Wednesday, 11:40 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Japanese stocks rebounded slightly several hours into trading Thursday. After the Nikkei 225 index opened to a 397-point plunge, the drop was later cut to 204 points, a 2.3% decline.

[10:20 p.m. ET Wednesday, 11:20 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Helicopters carrying water made four passes over two nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in the first airborne attempts to address overheating. The helicopters, operated by Japan's Self-Defense Forces, have made four passes over the reactors in a span of about 15 minutes around 10 a.m. Thursday. Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported that water was initially dumped on the plant's No. 3 reactor, and then was dumped on the No. 4 reactor. Each helicopter was capable of carrying 7.5 tons of water.

[9:50 p.m. ET Wednesday, 10:50 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Nuclear engineers plan Thursday afternoon to begin restoring power to the stricken nuclear complex at Fukushima, a government official said.

"Today, we are trying to restore the power supply using the power lines from outside," said the official with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. "This is one of the high-priority issues that we have to address."

Once the power supply has been reestablished, then the cooling system will be operated using seawater, he said. He cautioned that the process will not be immediate.

[9:37 p.m. ET Wednesday, 10:37 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Water was dropped from helicopters Thursday morning over two nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the first airborne attempts to address overheating inside related to emissions of radioactive material.

The helicopters, which were operated by Japan's Self-Defense Forces, made three passes over the reactors within 10 minutes before 10 a.m. Thursday. In the first two instances, water was dumped on the plant's No. 3 reactor, reported Japanese public broadcaster NHK, with the last being dumped over the No. 4 reactor.

[8:50 p.m. ET Wednesday, 9:50 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Temperatures recorded at spent fuel pools at the Fukushima plant Tuesday reached 84.0 degrees Celsius (183 Fahrenheit) at Unit 4; 60.4 degrees C (141 F) at Unit 5 and 58.5 degrees C (137 F) at Unit 6, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

The agency said on Wednesday that "no data" registered for Unit 4, and Unit 5 had risen to 62.7 degrees C (145 F) and Unit 6 had risen to 60.0 degrees C (140 F). The temperature of these pools is normally kept below 25 degrees Celsius (77 degrees F)

Meanwhile, the United States is sending a radiation detecting aircraft to Japan. The WC-13W Constant Phoenix can detect radioactive clouds in real time, U.S. Air Force officials said.

[8:15 p.m. ET Wednesday, 9:15 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo]Stocks in Japan fell early Thursday morning there amid fears of a nuclear crisis following the nation's catastrophic natural disaster. The Nikkei 225 index, the most prominent measure of stocks traded in Tokyo, was down 397 points, or 4.4%, shortly after the market opened. The index recovered nearly 6% on Wednesday after plunging a combined 16% during the first two trading days following last week's massive earthquake and tsunami.

[7:01 p.m. ET Wednesday, 8:01 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] As air carriers monitor radiation concerns at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, German airline Lufthansa and Italian carrier Alitalia have rerouted flights to and from the Tokyo area to other Japanese airports.

[5:54 p.m. ET Wednesday, 6:54 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] More on the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chief's testimony on the "extremely high" radiation levels at Japan's Fukushima Diiachi nuclear plant: He said spent fuel rods in a spent-fuel pool in the plant's Unit 4 were exposed, and a hydrogen explosion resulted earlier this week.

Robert Alvarez, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, tells CNN that water had served to both cool the uranium fuel and shield it. But once the uranium fuel was no longer covered by water, zirconium cladding that encases the fuel rods heated, generating hydrogen.

That caught fire, resulting in a situation that is "very, very serious," Alvarez told CNN. He said the next solution may involve nuclear plant workers having to take heroic acts. Asked to be more specific, he said, "This is a situation where people may be called in to sacrifice their lives. ... It's very difficult for me to contemplate that but it's, it may have reached that point."

[4:25 p.m. ET Wednesday, 5:25 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] A spent fuel pool at Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is dry, resulting in "extremely high" radiation levels, the head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said Wednesday.

"What we believe at this time is that there has been a hydrogen explosion in this unit due to an uncovering of the fuel in the fuel pool," Gregory Jaczko told a House energy and commerce subcommittee hearing. "We believe that secondary containment has been destroyed and there is no water in the spent fuel pool, and we believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures."

[4:15 p.m. ET Wednesday, 5:15 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day's trading session 241 points lower amid concerns about the U.S. economy and the crisis in Japan.

[3:01 p.m. ET Wednesday, 4:01 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Concerned about potential radiation exposure, the U.S. military will not allow troops to get within 50 miles of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Col. David Lapan, a Pentagon spokesman, says.

Earlier, the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it was recommending that Americans who live within 50 miles of the plant evacuate or take shelter indoors. This is a break from the recommendation by the Japanese government, which has told people at least 20 miles away from the damaged reactors to evacuate.

Before Wednesday, the United States had urged American citizens in Japan to follow the recommendations of the Japanese government. The new U.S. recommendation "suggests that the advice the Japanese government is giving based on the information it has is different than the advice we'd be giving if this incident happened in the United States," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

[2:39 p.m. ET Wednesday, 3:39 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] With less than 90 minutes left in the trading day, the Dow Jones industrial average is down 218 points as investors try to sort out not only disappointing U.S. housing data, but also concerns over developments in Japan.

[2:22 p.m. ET Wednesday, 3:22 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] U.S. President Barack Obama was briefed Wednesday by the chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the "deteriorating situation" of the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan, White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

[2:10 p.m. ET Wednesday, 3:10 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The yen reached a nearly 16-year high against the U.S. dollar in trading Wednesday, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported. Traders are speculating that Japanese companies will sell off assets to acquire yen that will be needed for rebuilding and recovery, the news agency said. At one point the yen was trading at 79.98 to the dollar, a figure not seen since April 1995.

[2:01 p.m. ET Wednesday, 3:01 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo is recommending as a precaution that Americans who live within 50 miles (80 kilometers) of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan evacuate or take shelter indoors.

[1:26 p.m. ET Wednesday, 2:26 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The U.S. military will send an unmanned Global Hawk high-altitude reconnaissance plane to take photos and infrared images of Japan's damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, a Japanese government source told Kyodo News on Wednesday. The images could help workers figure out what's going on inside the radiation-contaminated buildings.

[12:44 p.m. ET Wednesday, 1:44 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Yukiya Amano will travel to Japan "as soon as possible, hopefully tomorrow (Thursday)," he said Wednesday, to get the latest on the situation surrounding Japan's nuclear plants and to see "how the IAEA can help them," he said. It will be a short stay of just one night, he added.

Also, U.S. military flight crew members given potassium iodide ahead of a mission in Japan showed no levels of radioactive contamination when they returned, military officials said Wednesday.

[12:33 p.m. ET Wednesday, 1:33 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu told a congressional committee Wednesday that the situation at Japanese nuclear power plants is "more serious than Three Mile Island," but Americans should rest assured that U.S. nuclear power plants are safe.

[12:09 p.m. ET Wednesday, 1:09 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The death toll in Japan stands at 4,314 as of midnight Wednesday, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters. At least 8,606 people were missing and 2,282 injured, officials said.

[11:45 a.m. ET Wednesday, 12:45 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The U.S. military is now giving potassium iodide pills to some helicopter pilots and crew members as a precautionary measure before missions flying into Japan, Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said Wednesday. Previously air crews had only received the pills after some missions.

[11:40 a.m. ET Wednesday, 12:40 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Japan's central bank made an additional 13.8 trillion yen ($170 billion) available to money markets Wednesday to cushion the country's banking system from the shock of Friday's earthquake and tsunami, Kyodo News reported. That brings the Bank of Japan's  emergency funding total to 55.6 trillion yen ($688 billion), Kyodo said.

[11:22 a.m. ET Wednesday, 12:18 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] Ten aftershocks of magnitude 5.0 or greater were recorded Wednesday in the region of Friday's massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Japan, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. The greatest was magnitude 6.0, recorded shortly before 1 p.m. local time.

[11:18 a.m. ET Wednesday, 12:18 a.m. Thursday in Tokyo] The United States will measure radioactivity in Japan using its own equipment and 34 experts who arrived Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador John Roos told Japan's NHK news service. Roos said the U.S. seeks to help Japan as much as possible as well as ensure the safety of U.S. citizens there.

[10:17 a.m. ET Wednesday, 11:17 p.m. in Tokyo] The death toll in Japan stands at 4,277 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters.

[9:47 a.m. ET Wednesday, 10:47 p.m. in Tokyo] Delta Air Lines is pledging $1 million in cash and "in-kind support" to disaster relief efforts in Japan, the company announced Wednesday.

[9:27 a.m. ET Wednesday, 10:27 p.m.  in Tokyo] The National Police Agency reports 4,255 deaths from the earthquake and tsunami. An additional 8,194 people are missing and 2,282 were injured, the agency said. The number of dead is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.

[9:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, 10:15 p.m.  in Tokyo] The governments in Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures have asked the Japan Prefabricated Construction Suppliers & Manufacturers Association to build almost 33,000 homes to temporarily house those displaced by the quake and tsunami, Kyodo News service reports. At least 430,000 people are staying in shelters across eight prefectures, according to Kyodo.

[8:33 a.m. ET Wednesday, 9:33 p.m.  in Tokyo] Severe damage to the containment vessel of the No. 3 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is unlikely, Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Wednesday, according to a Kyodo News service report.

[7:55 a.m. ET Wednesday, 8:55 p.m.  in Tokyo] Two U.S. military water trucks are being sent to help in cooling damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, the U.S. military says. The trucks will not be operated by U.S. military personnel, but by employees of Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the nuclear plant.

[7:44 a.m. ET Wednesday, 8:44 p.m.  in Tokyo] The number of dead and missing from Friday's earthquake and tsunami in Japan now exceeds 12,000 people, authorities said. The death toll stands at 4,164 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters. As of 6 p.m. (5 a.m. ET), at least 7,843 people were missing and 2,218 injured, officials said. The number of dead is expected to go up as rescuers reach more hard-hit areas.

[7:31 a.m. ET Wednesday, 8:31 p.m.  in Tokyo] Toyota Motor Corp. said Wednesday it will not resume vehicle production at its Japanese plants for another week. Parts production is expected to resume Thursday in an effort to make parts available for vehicles in Japan, according to a statement on the company's website. Parts production for overseas plants is expected to resume next Monday.

[7:06 a.m. ET Wednesday, 8:06 p.m.  in Tokyo] The number of nuclear workers at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was slashed Tuesday from 800 to 50, but had grown to 180 by Wednesday afternoon, the Tokyo Electric Power Company said.

"Their situation is not great," said David Brenner, director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University. "It's pretty clear that they will be getting very high doses of radiation. There's certainly the potential for lethal doses of radiation. They know it, and I think you have to call these people heroes."

[6:48 a.m. ET Wednesday, 7:48 p.m.  in Tokyo] Tests revealed traces of radiation in tap water in Fukushima city, 80 kilometers (50 miles) from the Daiichi nuclear plant, the local government said Wednesday. The Fukushima prefecture's nuclear department said amounts of radioactive cesium and iodine that are not harmful to the human body were found in water samples taken at 8 a.m. Wednesday (7 p.m. ET Tuesday). Government officials said the traces found are connected with the nuclear plant. A measurement of the tap water supply taken later in the day found no traces of iodine or cesium.

[6:40 a.m. ET Wednesday, 7:40 p.m.  in Tokyo] The earthquake and tsunami have left at least 1.6 million Japanese residences without water, public broadcaster NHK reports, citing Japan's Health Ministry. More than 300 water trucks have been sent to the hardest-hit areas, according to the report.

[6:14 a.m. ET Wednesday, 7:14 p.m.  in Tokyo] Continental Corporation, a German tire and auto parts maker, has flown its foreign staffers and their families out of Japan as a precaution. Its Japanese staff were being moved to locations in southern Japan.

[6:03 a.m. ET Wednesday, 7:03 p.m.  in Tokyo] The Korean Peninsula moved up to 5 centimeters (2 inches) to the east because of last week's quake off the coast of Japan, South Korea's Astronomy and Space Science Institute said Wednesday, according to the Yonhap News Agency. The quake moved Japan's main island of Honshu 8 feet (243 centimeters), the U.S. Geological Survey reported earlier.

[5:50 a.m. ET Wednesday, 6:50 p.m.  in Tokyo] A speech by Japan's emperor Wednesday marked the first time in Japan's history that an emperor has addressed his country during a crisis on television, according to the country's Imperial Household Agency. Emperor Akihito's direct appeal to the public - when he told citizens to not lose hope after last week's natural disasters - is also considered exceptional and extraordinary in Japan.

[5:41 a.m. ET Wednesday, 6:41 p.m.  in Tokyo] South Korea is sending more than 50 tons of boric acid, a material to help slow down nuclear fission reactions, to Japan for use Tokyo Electric Power's damaged nuclear facilities, Yonhap News Agency reported. South Korea's Ministry of Knowledge Economy said it was supplying the boric acid at the request of Japan after Tokyo used its reserves of the material at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

[5:22 a.m. ET Wednesday, 6:22 p.m.  in Tokyo] A Japan Self-Defense Force helicopter aborted its mission to drop water over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor because of radiation levels in the area, Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported.

[5:20 a.m. ET Wednesday, 6:20 p.m.  in Tokyo] Radiation levels taken Wednesday afternoon between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers from the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant do not pose an immediate health risk, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

[5:15 a.m. ET Wednesday, 6:15 p.m.  in Tokyo] 80,000 Japan Self-Defense Force and police personnel have been mobilized for quake and tsunami relief, Kyodo News service reported Wednesday.

[4:53 a.m. ET Wednesday, 5:53 p.m. in Tokyo] The British Embassy will operate a coach from the disaster-ravaged city of Sendai to Tokyo on Thursday, the Foreign Office said.

A doctor in China said residents there need not panic about radiation from the damaged plant. "The winds are prevailing in a different direction, they're going eastward," said Dr. Philip Brooks at Beijing United Family Hospital.

[4:28 a.m. ET Wednesday, 5:28 p.m.  in Tokyo] The number of missing and injured people from Friday's quake and subsequent tsunami rose Wednesday afternoon, according to authorities.

As of 4 p.m. (3 a.m. ET), at least 8,181 people were missing and 2,218 were injured, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters. The death toll stood at 3,771.

[3:44 a.m. ET Wednesday, 4:44 p.m. in Tokyo] Japan Emperor Akihito told his nation to not give up hope and said the hearts of the international community were with Japan, in a rare, nationally televised address.

Emperor Akihito called Japan's earthquake and tsunami an unprecedented incident, saying the scope of the death toll is still unknown. However, the emperor's remarks focused on comforting a nation reeling from the disaster.

Emperor Akihito said he cares deeply for the Japanese people and was moved by his people's calm and order. He said in this kind of emergency, "We need to understand and help each other."

The emperor also said he was deeply grateful for the help from the international community and that the imperial household had received messages from all over the world that "their hearts are with us."

Akihito addressed the nation on national TV, a rare event that only occurs in times of war or national crisis.

[3:42 a.m. ET Wednesday, 4:42 p.m. in Tokyo] Japanese stocks rebounded Wednesday, with the leading stock index recovering nearly 6% from a two-day plunge stemming from the crisis created by the March 11 earthquake.

The Nikkei 225 index, the most prominent measure of Tokyo market stocks, ended up 489 points, or 5.7%.

The rebound came after intense selling over the previous two days, the first full-day sessions following the quake. On Tuesday, the index plunged 10.6%, marking the third worst one-day plunge in the Nikkei's history. The losses over two days totaled more than 16%.

[3:25 a.m. ET Wednesday, 4:25 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] Video from NHK Japan shows two helicopters in the air over reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi. According to NHK, one helicopter is supposed to measure radiation levels at the reactor while the second helicopter is supposed to drop water on the reactor.

[3:07 a.m. ET Wednesday, 4:07 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] As a safety precaution, the Japanese government is now telling people living within a 10-kilometer radius of the Daini plant, the second nuclear power plant in Fukushima, to evacuate.

The Daini plant, which has four reactors, has reported fluctuating temperatures at its suppression pools. The Daini plant's reactors have been stopped, and there has been no radioactivity leakage so far.

[2:32 a.m. ET Wednesday, 3:32 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] French Prime Minister Francois Fillon suggested citizens who are not compelled to stay in Tokyo leave for France or the south of Japan now, according to an embassy statement Wednesday.

Fillon said the government has asked Air France to mobilize planes in Asia to respond without delay to requests for evacuations, and two aircraft were en route to Japan. Departures were scheduled for Thursday.

[2:20 a.m. ET Wednesday, 3:20 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] The death toll in Japan from Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami rose to 3,771 Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

[1:43 a.m. ET Wednesday, 2:43 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] Food safety officers at Indian ports and airports have been asked to test food that came to the country from Japan after March 11 for radiation, India's Health Ministry said.

[1:10 a.m. ET Wednesday, 2:10 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] Workers have returned to the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant after an evacuation order was lifted, Tokyo Electric Power Company said.

[12:30 a.m. ET Wednesday, 1:30 p.m. Wednesday in Tokyo] The death toll in Japan from Friday's 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami stood at 3,676 Wednesday afternoon, authorities said, though the number of missing people increased.

As of 12:30 p.m. (11:30 p.m. Tuesday ET), at least 7,843 people were missing and 2,044 injured, according to the National Police Agency Emergency Disaster Headquarters.

A white cloud of smoke or steam rising above Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may have been caused by a breach in the containment vessel in reactor No. 3, government officials said.

A spokesman for Japan's nuclear safety agency later told reporters that analysts were still trying to determine the cause of fluctuating radiation levels at the plant, but that radiation levels may have increased "because the containment vessel in reactor No. 3 has been damaged."

U.S. government experts trying to construct a model of radiation plumes emanating from the plant are being hampered by a "paucity of good data," a senior administration official said.

Workers at the plant have suspended their operations and been evacuated, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Wednesday.

Cold weather has increased the hardship for earthquake victims and rescuers. Conditions are expected to worsen, with temperatures forecast to drop below freezing by Wednesday across portions of the earthquake zone.

Stocks in Japan opened higher Wednesday morning, one day after the nation's main market index suffered one of its biggest drops on record. The Nikkei 225 index, the most prominent measure of Tokyo market stocks, rose 520 points, or 6%, shortly after the market opened.

soundoff (322 Responses)
  1. FieroDough

    If you want to see what the interior of a similar GE Mark I nuclear plant looks like, have a look at this video.

    March 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Buck

    Wolfe! The world is getting mixed information about the nuclear emergency and you just let the head of the NRC off the hook by NOT clearly answering your questions. I know you must be tired from traveling but we NEED you to get REAL answers from someone! Please!

    March 16, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Buck

    We have the White House spokesman referring beat reporters to their own international reporters. Why are governments afraid to be honest? Are they afraid of panic. We deserve to know!

    March 16, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. MA Moore

    Two words: NO NUKES!

    March 16, 2011 at 7:06 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  5. vplus

    Who is Robert Alvarez? Why do we believe in a guy who know nothing about physics?

    March 16, 2011 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Mark Thompson

    Can someone please tell us how long it takes to cool these fuel rods. I assume it must be a chemical action or something that keeps them hot as the amount of water poured on them one would think it would be cooled by now. Please fill us in on this

    March 16, 2011 at 7:11 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • NuclearEngineer

      The problem is that the fuel rods will output power from radioactive decay heat even though the main nuclear reaction is completely shut off. This decay heat takes weeks to months to stop depending on the composition and age of the fuel rods, but is easy held by the water surrounding them. Since the reactor is "off" so to speak and the decay heat remains for a considerable amount of time, the issue is not so much cooling the rods as keeping them completely surrounded with water. Since the water level is decreasing, they have to get the water from somewhere else by either their backup systems (disabled by the tsunamis but presumably being repaired) or pumping it more manually, i.e. using fire trucks and riot water hoses until they can establish a more permanent/stable method. Without any electricity (again knocked out by the tsunamis) this is very difficult and it's one of the big reasons it is taking so long to correct the issue. Be wary that a lot of the news reports and articles on this matter are grossly mis-stating the issues. Check this out: http://mitnse.com/

      March 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • WK

      So will rain or snow help?

      March 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Buck

    "This is a little unsettling." – Sharon Squassoni, Nuclear Expert to John King.

    A LITTLE????? HELLO????

    March 16, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. chicity007

    Here is how to survive urban disaster all pictures field manual, viewable from any browser even mobile: http://ruppe1.wordpress.com/post-disaster-urban-city/

    都市災害で存続する方法: http://ruppe1.wordpress.com/post-disaster-urban-city/

    March 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. danceman

    This is end of the beginning! Now begins the end. I just hope all those responsible die a slow painful death in the dust of their creation!
    More from the experts. That peak of radiation we have seen several times in when the reactor reaches 4000-5000C this is a meltdown! Once this occurs the evacuation zone 20km for uranium 30km for uranium plutonium rods (as in Mo3) starts to get radiated by these extremely dangerous radioactive materials. Some will take 1000s of years to decay, If all goes according to plan and there are no explosions or freak weather. That will be the limit of the damage. But at least 1350 sq Km will be permanently unusable! 100,000s will be homeless. An unknown number will get cancers.

    March 16, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. jeffv96818

    With explosions at 1 and 3 and a drop in pressure in #2, why would the lack of water in the #4 spent fuel pool be the only concern expressed by the NRC? How about #4 is down for maintenance and the fuel rods have been removed... they are probably in the spent fuel pool while maintenance is going on. Someone needs to ask about the fuel rods from #4. Also where is the rods for #5 and #6? they are down for maintenance too.

    March 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tod

    I am an experimental physicist/scientist and I think the media is over amplifying the problem. Like a bunch of kids in a classroom, they keep talking about the same things. Based on what I know, the info that we are being given does not match up. If the reactor was in shutdown mode and the reaction was stopped, then it can be cooled down. The only reason it has not cooled down by now is that it is still reacting. The shutdown procedure must not have worked properly as far as halting the fission reaction.
    This is the problem with corporations giving money for favors in government and the reason why we have to stop the direction our government is moving toward corporations. They are covering up the problem because they did not have the appropriate safeguards in place in the event of a large quake with a tsunami. We will probably never really know the truth, but the safeguards were definitely not good enough. Cut costs and hide the truth; corporations and governments. I have a good idea, send all of the CEO's to get a real close look inside and see how cheaply they built this reactor system. Ahh, but who cares about the common people, they are expendable, rich people are not.

    I have tried to get grants for my technology ideas in development of shielding for exactly this type of problem with no success because of our bureaucracy. Radiation shielding needs to be improved before we can continue to build or even think about building more reactors for power generation. My radiation shielding technology is a "smart" or reactive material. In other words, it automatically increases the strength of the shielding as the radiation increases and uses the energy of the radiation to enhance the shielding, that it is why I call it "smart". It is so efficient it can almost sustain itself with little or no input power once it is activated. poliscitech.com

    March 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kathy

      First blog that I have seen that sounds like a solution for the future.. The idea of "smart" protection sounds fantastic! Is this a reality or a theory you are working on? Would love to hear more about that in the future. Kudos!

      March 16, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • runswithbeer

      Radiation levels in the plant are at LETHAL LEVELS. There are 3 Reactors in the process of melting down, not one, and exposed spent fuel rods in the storage pool. yes it time to PANIC. The whole world should have PANICKED Last Friday.Right now the orderly Evacuation of Tokyo is under way. The WORLD needs to send in whatever it takes to shut this DISASTER down and RIGHT NOW. Folks calling themselves Scientists have for days now covered up and smoothed over this NUCLEAR DISASTER. They need to shut up and get out of the way while PANIC forces the rest of us to do something.

      March 16, 2011 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tod

      The design is reality, but the production methods and setup are costly as with any new technology. I have several other physicists (2 nuclear physicists and 1 solid state physicist) working with me, but getting funding to build a bigger system is difficult because others want to steal it and claim it as their own. I am considered an unknown in the world of physics and the arrogance of those that are known cannot tolerate someone else with a good solution. My design crosses the boundaries of known physics. The physics of the high magnetic fields at an interface have never been resolved because when you are talking about field strengths near 6 megatesla per square meter it gets rather difficult to imagine. We do not know about the physics at these high field strengths because the only way they have been produced is in the detonation of a nuclear bomb.

      March 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Kings

    To spray water on those 4 Nuke plants, ...can our US Air Force use military cargo planes carry ice and drop it on the nuke plant #4 or create man made local rain fall on that tiny area? or use unmanned air plane to boom the beach causing the sea water splash into those 4 plants to cool them down?

    March 16, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Mirk1530

    This is craziness we are all screwed I wonder what the next big diaster is going to be

    March 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Nibiru

      California moving 8ft. to the west? They're on the same techtonic plate.

      March 16, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Harlan

    How about covering the whole reacter with carbon, that won't melt. Just blow it in and cover everything up.

    March 16, 2011 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. danceman

    There is more! Not only all Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors and spent fuel rods are over heating but also the Onagawa power plant has had leaks. There are 54 reactors plus the equivalent of 54 cooling pools for spent fuel rods. One assumes that like Fukushima No3, none of these are built to with stand the current strength of earth quakes.If the country lost all power and could not work the stand by generators every one would melt down or burn up! On the present experience I think the odds are not good!

    March 16, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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