The Washington Post reports that Japanese nuclear officials have resorted to using fire pumps to inject tens of thousands of gallons of sea water directly into the reactors at two Fukushima nuclear power complexes. This emergency action has been undertaken to control what is now being described as a “partial meltdown” of at least two reactor cores.
Reports said that Japanese nuclear officials believe the inner containment vessel of the Unit 3 reactor was still intact after the explosion. The danger posed by a containment breach at the Unit 3 reactor is especially serious because the reactor was recently fueled with a semi-experiemental MOX nuclear fuel, which is a combination of plutonium oxide and the more common uranium oxide. Plutonium is considered a substantially more dangerous nuclear fuel, and the Japanese MOX program was delayed for over a decade because of local opposition and the revelation that the British fuel manufacturer, British Nuclear Fuels ltd, had falsified safety reports in the late 1990s.
Dramatic and conflicting reports emerged Saturday regarding the safety status of the Unit 1 reactor at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant.
The news aggregator Drudge Report linked to a story in the Japanese press that said the explosion that destroyed the reactor’s outer containment building “could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core.” The Japanese article said the source of the report was the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.