News / Asia

Possible Nuclear Fission at Crippled Japanese Power Plant

TEXT SIZE - +

There are signs of fresh trouble at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan.

Concern that nuclear fission may be occurring has prompted Tokyo Electric Power Company to spray boric acid into one of the reactor buildings at the Fukushima-1 power plant.

The utility confirms a "very small amount" of radioactive xenon gas has been detected at the number two reactor - one of three crippled after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit the facility on March 11.

Both Xenon 133 and 135, which have been detected, are by-products of nuclear fission. The substances themselves are not considered a health risk.

Professor Andrew Stuchberry heads the nuclear physics department at Australian National University.

"The most likely source of them [radioactive xenon gas emissions] is from some nuclear fission taking place. The fact their response is to add boric acid, which eats neutrons, that should stop the fission process," he said.

Stuchberry characterizes this development as "a little bit of a surprise" but says there is no reason for the public, so far, to be overly concerned.

"If there's a little bit of fission taking place in the core I would think it would be relatively limited. There's certainly no chance that anything is going to explode. I don't think there'll be large amounts of heat generated that would affect safety," he said.  "I would hope that there wouldn't be any additional radiation release associated with this. With the little information we have at the moment and the action being taken I wouldn't get too alarmed."

TEPCO officials say this latest incident should not delay their goal of bringing all the plant's reactors to a state of cold shutdown by the end of this year.

The plant has been leaking radiation since its cooling system was knocked out by the mega-quake and tsunami nearly eight months ago. That triggered apparent core meltdowns in three of the six reactors. Towns and villages in a 20-kilometer radius of the plant were evacuated. Elevated radiation levels have been detected in food, water and soil as far away as Tokyo.

A French nuclear safety institute says the Fukushima disaster has generated the largest-ever discharge of radioactive materials into the ocean. The incident is the worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown.

A Japanese government panel says it will take at least 30 years to safely decommission the Fukushima nuclear plant.


Steve Herman

A veteran journalist, Steven L Herman is the Voice of America Asia correspondent.

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites 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.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid