Even as workers race to prevent the radioactive cores of the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan from melting down, concerns are growing that nearby pools holding spent fuel rods could pose an even greater danger, The New York Times reports.
The pools, which sit on the top level of the reactor buildings and keep spent fuel submerged in water, have lost their cooling systems and the Japanese have been unable to take emergency steps because of the multiplying crises.
By late Tuesday, the water meant to cool spent fuel rods in the No. 4 reactor was boiling, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said. If the water evaporates and the rods run dry, they could overheat and catch fire, potentially spreading radioactive materials in dangerous clouds.
Shigekatsu Oomukai, a spokesperson for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said the substantial capacity of the pool meant that the water in the pool was unlikely to evaporate soon. But he said workers were having difficulty reaching the pool to cool it, because of the high temperature of the water.
Temperatures appeared to be rising in the spent fuel pools at two other reactors at the plant, No. 5 and No. 6, said Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary. Meanwhile, workers continued to pump seawater into the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, where cooling systems remained unusable.
The pools are a worry at the stricken reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant because at least two of the reactors have lost their roofs in explosions, exposing the spent fuel pools to the atmosphere. By contrast, reactors have strong containment vessels that stand a better chance of bottling up radiation from a meltdown of the fuel in the reactor core.
Read the entire story at nytimes.com
© Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.