News / Asia

US Nuclear Officials: Japan Nuclear Plant Slowly Recovering

Smoke is seen coming from the area of the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan on Mar 21 2011
Smoke is seen coming from the area of the No. 3 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture in northeastern Japan on Mar 21 2011
William Ide

U.S. nuclear officials said Tuesday that Japan's troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is slowly being brought under control after a deadly earthquake and tsunami led to at least a partial meltdown of three of the station's reactors.  They also say the nuclear energy industry in the United States is looking to learn lessons from the Japanese crisis.

U.S. nuclear energy officials say they have been working closely with their Japanese counterparts since the crisis began, providing technical support and assistance in dealing with the situation at the Fukushima power plant.

Peter Lyons, Acting Assistant Secretary for the Office of Nuclear Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy, said, "Current information suggests that the plants are in a slow recovery from the accident.  However, long-term cooling of the reactors and pools is essential during this period and has not been adequately restored to date to the best of my knowledge.  A massive clean up effort obviously remains for the future."

Lyons testified before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.  He said his agency and several others established a nuclear incident operations center when problems arose at the Fukushima power plant.

Bill Borchardt of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or NRC, says reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima plant have damaged reactor cores and that water levels at spent fuel rod pools vary, which might pose the risk of further radiation exposure.

"The Unit 2 spent fuel pool has now started receiving fresh water and they are trying to change all of the units from fire trucks to normal pumping in the next few days.  Tokyo Electric Power Company has restored electric power to the site and to the six reactor control rooms.  And the situation in general continues to further stabilize, although there are many hurdles that remain," he said.

The crisis at the Fukushima plant has raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power plants in the United States.  U.S. nuclear officials sought to assure Senate lawmakers that plants in the United States are safe and that the industry will apply the lessons learned from the Japanese accident.

The NRC's Operations Director Bill Borchardt said that more than half of the 104 nuclear reactors in the United States have already received renewed licenses for another 20 years and that the rest are expected to apply for similar licenses.  He said he sees no technical reason to slow the process.

"It is our intent through the lessons learned programs and our continuous operational oversight of the operating fleet that if there was a design change necessary in order to adapt plants to what we are learning from Japan. We would take that action absent or outside of the license renewal review process. We would take that without hesitation," he said.

Borchardt said the NRC will conduct a 90-day review of the situation in Japan to find what the United States needs to learn from the situation at Fukushima power plant.

Lyons said that like the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear power plant accident in Pennsylvania and the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, Japan's experience will hold lessons for the U.S. nuclear power industry.  But, he said, it is too early to draw specific conclusions.

"As detail becomes available, it will be very important to understand in detail the steps that were taken and to understand whether an alternative sequence of steps, different timing of steps, could have been more effective. But for now, that’s a little premature.  We’re very much focused on trying to help them with restoring the cooling," he said.

David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists also testified before the Senate Energy Committee.  He told lawmakers that one of the biggest problems at the Fukushima plant has been loss of electricity - a problem that every nuclear power plant in the United States faces.

"As at Fukushima, U.S. reactors are designed for a station blackout of only a short duration.  Eleven U.S. reactors are designed to cope with a station blackout lasting eight hours, as were the reactors in Japan. Ninety-three of our reactors are designed to cope for only four hours," he said.

Another lesson to be learned from the incident, Lochbaum added, is the vulnerability of spent nuclear fuel rods.

"All U.S. reactors have more irradiated fuel in the spent fuel pool than exists in the plant’s core. All U.S. reactors have the spent fuel pool cooled by fewer and less reliable systems than are provided by the reactor core. At all U.S. reactors, the spent fuel pool is housed in less robust containment than surrounds the reactor core," he said.

As Japanese officials try to cool reactors and spent fuel at the Fukushima plant, there is concern about how far radiation from the crippled plant could spread. During Tuesday's hearing, experts assured lawmakers that radiation from Japan would not pose a threat to people in the United States.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid