News / Asia

IAEA: No Indication of Nuclear Reactor Meltdown in Japan

Fukushima Daiichi power plant's Unit 1 is seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011
Fukushima Daiichi power plant's Unit 1 is seen in Okumamachi, Fukushima prefecture, Japan, Friday, March 11, 2011

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, said Monday in Vienna that despite problems at two nuclear power plants in Japan stemming from last week's earthquake and tsunami, there is no indication of a reactor meltdown.  But the fluid situation and fears of a possible meltdown are raising concerns.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano sought to calm fears about the release of radioactive gas into the air, following two explosions at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, some 200 kilometers north of Tokyo. "Despite the hydrogen explosions, reactors vessels and containment vessels stayed in tact.  As a result, the release of radioactivity was limited," he said.

Amano described the many layers of protection at the Japanese plant. "The nuclear reactors BWR [i.e., boiling water reactor] have multiple safety measures. The nuclear core is contained in reactor vessels that are made of higher [grade] steel.  Then the reactor's vessel is contained in a primary containment vessel that is made of concrete," he said.

Japan expert Daniel Aldrich of Purdue University in the U.S. state of Indiana says the situation at the stricken plant is not as serious as the 1986 nuclear power accident at Chernobyl in what is now Ukraine. "This is a smaller scale meltdown, where the fuel rods themselves have not been cooled down by water or normally by other cooling fluids.  So in this case, it means the fuel gets so hot, the rods themselves melt.  And if uncontrolled, this could build into a larger meltdown.  So right now, to our knowledge, this is only a partial meltdown," he said.

But nuclear engineer David Lochbaum with the Union of Concerned Scientists cautions that it is difficult to detect a meltdown.  "There's not an annunciator; there's not an alarm window or a computer print out that says, 'I've experienced a core meltdown.'"

A partial core meltdown occurs when nuclear fuel is not cooled for several hours and begins to melt.  A full nuclear meltdown occurs when the fuel in the core melts and falls to the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel.  If the heat ruptures the vessel, it could result a large and violent release of radiation with serious health effects.

Expert Daniel Aldrich says that so far, the release of radiation at the Fukushima plant has been similar to the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island in the United States rather than the Chernobyl disaster, the worst nuclear accident in history.

"Well we know from Chernobyl, it was a tremendously large, full meltdown, we had there in Russia.  It's possible for radioactivity to travel literally thousands of miles in the atmosphere.  From Three Mile Island though, which I think is a better to comparison to what's going on now, the maximum distance we think it traveled was just a few miles.  In fact, Three Mile Island never had provable health effects on local residents there," he said.

But physicist Edwin Lyman with the Union of Concerned Scientists says the radiation exposure levels of three U.S. helicopters crews flying far from the Fukushima plant, should be cause for concern.  "I think it's not a surprise that there would be a propagation of some fission products as far as 100 miles [from the plant], but what  is surprising is the extent of the dose rate that I heard was attributed to the airman, which seems to be a little bit higher than I would have been expected at this point," he said.

About 200,000 people have been evacuated from areas around Fukushima and other troubled nuclear power stations.  About 600 people still in homes near the Fukushima plant have been advised to remain indoors.

You May Like

Mugabe Dismisses Male-Female Equality

'It is not possible that women can be at par with men' incoming African Union president declares on eve of summit More

Somali Terror Suspect's Light Sentence Raises Questions

Abdullahi Yusuf, 18, could have spent 15 years in prison but judge instead sentenced him to a halfway house, and a program to try to integrate him back into the community More

Video Kobani Ravaged Following Kurdish Ouster of IS Militants

Even so, hundreds of refugees sheltering in Turkey seek to return; Kurdish forces hold some back, saying fighting continues More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid