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

Reports of Mass Murder on Mediterranean Smuggler’s Boat

Boat sailed from Libya with 750 migrants aboard and arrived in Italy with 569 More

Video New Thailand Hotline Targets Misbehaving Monks

Officials say move aims to restore country’s image of Buddhism, tarnished by recent high profile scandals such as opulent lifestyle, drug and alcohol abuse, as well as child sex abuse More

Study: Dust from Sahara Helped Form Bahama Islands

What does the Sahara have in common with a Caribbean island? Quite a lot, researchers say 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.
Astronauts Train in Underwater Labi
X
George Putic
July 25, 2014 7:25 PM
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.
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.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid