miércoles, 16 de marzo de 2011
ASIA NEWS MARCH 16, 2011, 3:42 P.M. ET

Officials Try to Cool Spent Nuclear Fuel


TOKYO—Officials grappled Wednesday with the new task of cooling overheating spent nuclear fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, the facility at the center of Japan’s escalating nuclear crisis, as radiation contamination spread on the plant’s grounds and seeped out in small amounts to nearby communities.As the battle to regain control of the troubled nuclear-power plant entered its sixth day Wednesday, the focus shifted to waste fuel kept at storage pools related to two of the plant’s six reactors. Water temperatures in these pools shot up, raising the risk of melting of fuel rods or hydrogen explosions in the pools designed to keep waste fuel cool and inactive.

A spokesman for the utility operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., said smoke rising from the plant’s No. 3 reactor indicates that a pool of water where spent fuel rods are stored within the building had dried out. Officials still have not succeeded in filling the pool with water, which could cool them down and act as a buffer against radiation. Earlier, officials said they worried that the reactor itself had been damaged, but later played down the possibility.

High radiation levels above the plant forced Japan’s military to cancel plans to dump water from a military helicopter to cool the spent-rod pools at reactor No. 3 and another reactor, No. 4. High levels of radiation on the ground also hampered efforts to spray water from fire trucks, following consecutive fires at the plant’s No. 4 reactor’s waste fuel pool on Tuesday and Wednesday.