June 6th, 2011
10:35 AM ET

3 Japan nuclear reactors had full meltdown, agency says

Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant experienced full meltdowns at three reactors in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March, the country's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters said Monday.

The nuclear group's new evaluation, released Monday, goes further than previous statements in describing the extent of the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

The announcement will not change plans for how to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the agency said.

Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown, it said.

The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., admitted last month that nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis.

It had already said fuel rods at the heart of reactor No. 1 melted almost completely in the first 16 hours after the disaster struck. The remnants of that core are now sitting in the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel at the heart of the unit and that vessel is now believed to be leaking.

A "major part" of the fuel rods in reactor No. 2 may have melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel 101 hours after the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant, Tokyo Electric said May 24.

The same thing happened within the first 60 hours at reactor No. 3, the company said, in what it called its worst-case scenario analysis, saying the fuel would be sitting at the bottom of the pressure vessel in each reactor building.

But Tokyo Electric at the same time released a second possible scenario for reactors 2 and 3, one that estimated a full meltdown did not occur. In that scenario, the company estimated the fuel rods may have broken but may not have completely melted.

Temperature data showed the two reactors had cooled substantially in the more than two months since the incident, Tokyo Electric said in May.

The earthquake and tsunami knocked out cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi, causing the three operating reactors to overheat. That compounded a natural disaster by spewing radioactive material into the atmosphere.

Tokyo Electric avoided using the term "meltdown," and says it was keeping the remnants of the core cool. But U.S. experts interviewed by CNN after the company's announcement in May said that while it may have been containing the situation, the damage had already been done.

"On the basis of what they showed, if there's not fuel left in the core, I don't know what it is other than a complete meltdown," said Gary Was, a University of Michigan nuclear engineering professor and CNN consultant. And given the damage reported at the other units, "It's hard to imagine the scenarios can differ that much for those reactors."

A massive hydrogen explosion - a symptom of the reactor's overheating - blew the roof off the No. 1 unit the day after the earthquake, and another hydrogen blast ripped apart the No. 3 reactor building two days later. A suspected hydrogen detonation within the No. 2 reactor is believed to have damaged that unit on March 15. CNN's Yoko Wakatsuki and Kyung Lah contributed to this report.

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Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Japan
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  1. Anthony's Case Posts

    The fact that the remains were skeletal also prevented authorities from getting definitive answers on toxicology, as well as evidence that Caylee was abused - something her mother is charged with doing. "How do you prove that when you just have skeletal remains?" Casarez said.

    Duct tape was still stuck to the lower facial region of the child's body, authorities have said.

    "(Caylee's) killer prepared some substance in advance that would render her physically unable to resist," prosecutor Jeff Ashton said at a December 2009 hearing, "administered the substance, awaited its effect and then methodically applied three pieces of duct tape to completely cut off the flow of air through her mouth or her nose and let nature take its course."

    Authorities have said that the amount of decomposition would seem to indicate Caylee died shortly after she went missing.

    Anthony initially told police that she had last seen her daughter in the custody of a babysitter named Zenaida Gonzalez. Investigators never tracked down the babysitter; later, a woman named Zenaida Gonzalez filed a defamation suit against Anthony, saying she had never met her and lost her job over the claims. Anthony countersued, accusing Gonzalez of attempting to cash in on the high-profile case.

    Prosecutors allege that after killing her daughter, Anthony stashed her body in the trunk of her Pontiac Sunfire before disposing of it. A cadaver dog has alerted to the scent of human decomposition in the trunk, and testing showed the presence of chloroform. Orange County Superior Court Chief Judge Belvin Perry Jr. ruled last month jurors can hear the chloroform testimony. In addition, investigators have said they found Internet searches of websites mentioning chloroform on Anthony's computer.

    Anthony's high-powered defense team, fighting to save her life, will likely try to cast doubt on prosecutors' scientific evidence. At pretrial hearings, they have argued that evidence regarding a potential odor of decomposition in the trunk, chloroform and other evidence is not reliable enough for jurors to consider.

    Perry has also ruled jurors can hear testimony about a stain in the trunk, as well as the decompositional odor. In March, Baez contended that having jurors look at the stain might have a "prejudicial effect," alleging it could have been caused by a wet bag of garbage or gasoline cans. The stain was negative for DNA, as well as for the presence of blood or other bodily fluids, he said. "There is absolutely no proof whatsoever that this is a biological stain," Baez said.

    Perhaps the biggest hurdle for the defense is the fact that Caylee had been missing for 31 days before authorities were aware of it, and her mother failed to report it, Casarez said.

    In addition, some have alleged that Anthony didn't behave like the worried mother of a missing child during the search for Caylee. She went to nightclubs and sent hundreds of text messages to friends, according to cell phone and text transcripts and investigative reports released by police. Those records show she rarely mentioned her missing daughter.//

    June 6, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ahkmed

    Al Jazeera reports that this one is worse than Chernobyl. Much worse. Like 100 times worse according to a comparison of deep-sea water samples taken from 12-16 miles at sea. CNN will probably report this in November.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:25 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Ahkmed

    How much do Americans spend defending themselves against earthquakeism compared to terrorism? Seems to me EQ's get more of you than we "terrorists" do. Allow me to introduce you to my little frien' Tornado. Play nice Tornado. Hello? Hurricane! Is that you! Hang on a sec., little buddy Flood was texting me. Look! We have NOT invaded you! Go ahead and spend your money against these natural disasters! We deal with them over here too! Right. As if that'll fly.

    June 6, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Report abuse |


    June 6, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  5. banasy


    I liked ACP's posts better when it was not stealing them directly from the IN SESSION blog.

    Not by much, mind you!

    My continue prayers to the people of Japan.

    June 6, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  6. banasy

    Oh, stop it now, PD, you bad boy!

    June 6, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Maddy Scijunior

    What is the current status of all the affected reactors? Are they finally contained and safe (and if so for how long?) or are they still leaking radiation into the environment? How much?

    June 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Rick Maltese

    Responsible journalism does not incite reaction with misleading statements like "Reactors 1, 2 and 3 experienced a full meltdown, it said." Those words don't exist in the report. They do not use the word "full" or "complete".Did you ask yourself what is a full meltdown? If the reactors are damaged inside that's one thing to feel sorry for the expense to the power plant but if the reactors are keeping radiation from escaping like they were designed to do then what's the complaint. The real noise is being made about "measurable" amounts of radiation. This needs to be made clear. It is very easy to measure radiation. It is everywhere and you don't need to be near a power plant to detect it and if Geiger counters had been around 500 years ago they would still respond to background radiation.

    June 8, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
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