Japanese Nuclear Engineers Plan For Doomsday Scenario
Monday 21 March 2011
JAPANESE engineers have conceded that burying a crippled nuclear plant in sand and concrete may be the only way to prevent a catastrophic radiation release.
However, rather than resort to the method used to seal Chernobyl in 1986, they still hope to end the crisis by fixing a power cable to two reactors by some time today in order to restart water pumps needed to cool overheating nuclear fuel rods at the Fukushima plant.
Meanwhile, water continues to be dumped on No 3 reactor, the most critically damaged of the plant’s four.
It was the first time the facility’s operator acknowledged that burying the 40-year-old complex was a possibility, and a sign that dumping water from military helicopters and attempts to restart cooling pumps may not work.
“It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete,” said an official from plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company. “But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first.”
Officials raised the severity rating of Japan’s nuclear crisis from level four to level five, putting it on a par with the US’s Three Mile Island accident in 1979, although some experts say it is more serious.
The Soviet Union’s Chernobyl disaster reached a maximum seven on the INES scale.
Tourists, expatriates and many Japanese people continue to leave Tokyo, fearing radioactive emissions from the Dai-ichi nuclear complex 150 miles to the north, despite reassurances from health officials and the UN’s atomic watchdog that radiation levels in the capital are not harmful.
Such reassurances offer little solace for around 300 nuclear plant technicians working shifts round the clock in the radioactive wreckage.