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

Kurdish President: More Needed to Defeat Islamic State

In interview with VOA's Persian Service, Massoud Barzani says peshmerga forces have not received weapons, logistical support needed to successfully fight IS in northern Iraq More

Sierra Leone's Stray Dog Population Doubles During Ebola Crisis

Many dog owners fear their pets could infect them with the virus and have abandoned them, leading to the increase and sparking fears of rabies More

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

New methods for mapping pain in the brain not only validate sufferers of chronic pain but might someday also lead to better treatment 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.
New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Paini
X
Shelley Schlender
April 20, 2015 7:03 PM
Pain has a purpose - it can stop you from touching a flame or from walking on a broken leg. As an injury heals, the pain goes away. Usually. But worldwide, one out of every five people suffers from pain that lasts for months and years, leading to lost jobs, depression, and rising despair when medical interventions fail or health experts hint that a pain sufferer is making it up. From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Italy Rescues Migrants After Separate Deadly Capsize Incident

Italy continued its massive search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Monday for the capsized boat off the coast of Libya that was carrying hundreds of migrants, while at the same time rescuing Syrian migrants from another vessel off the coast of Sicily. Thirteen children were among the 98 Syrian migrants whose boat originated from Turkey on the perilous journey to Europe.
Video

Video New Test Set to Be Game Changer in Eradicating Malaria

The World Health Organization estimates 3.4 billion people are at risk of malaria, with children under the age of five and pregnant women being the most vulnerable. As World Malaria Day approaches (April 25), mortality rates are falling, and a new test -- well into the last stage of trials -- is having positive results in Kenya. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA from Nairobi.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.

VOA Blogs