In Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, six spent fuel pools and three reactor cores have the potential to release significant radiation into the atmosphere.
Conditions at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactors, damaged by the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami, remain tense, as water levels around the spent fuel rods in one reactor continue to drop, exposing the rods to the air.
As Japanese plant operators attempt to cool the remaining reactor cores at the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant, they must work with limited information, since the reactor buildings are highly radioactive, making it too dangerous to send workers in to get more accurate readings.
As radiation levels fluctuate at the Daiichi reactors in Fukushima, there is increasing concern about the amount of radiation workers at the plant are being exposed to and how much radiation is leaking into the surrounding area.
Amidst the drama of the worst seismic catastrophe in Japan’s recorded history, the Japanese government and its nuclear industry have been struggling to prevent a power reactor core melt accident similar to that which occurred at Three Mile Island in the United States three decades ago.
While it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Japanese to contain the smaller amounts of radiation escaping from the nuclear energy plants damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, a catastrophic release of radiation remains extremely unlikely.
The fire in the spent fuel pool in Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the explosion inside another reactor have opened more pathways for radiation to be released, prompting the nuclear industry to reconsider whether their designs for reactors are sufficient to withstand significant natural disasters.
The damage done to Japan’s nuclear reactors by the earthquake and subsequent tsunami should prompt the nuclear industry to reevaluate the magnitude of natural disasters that the reactors should be designed to survive.
While public concerns about the safety of nuclear energy have resurfaced in the wake of the crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the case for nuclear power remains strong.
In the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, Japan is scrambling to avert further problems at damaged nuclear plants.