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Steam And Groundwater Raise Concern At Japanese Nuclear Plant
The troubles at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant began over two years ago when an earthquake and tsunami sparked meltdowns in three reactors. But events over the past week serve as reminder that the problems are far from over.
First, a remote camera spotted steam rising from one of the melted down reactors at the plant. The steam was first seen at the unit 3 reactor late last week, and it’s continued on-and-off ever since.
Steam rising from the ruins became an iconic image from the early days of the accident, so many were startled by the fresh video. They had reason for concern: The uranium fuel is still inside unit-3, and even two years after the accident it is still warm. Some fuel could have shifted and created an unexpected hot spot, or worse restarted nuclear reactions.
But both scenarios appear unlikely. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which owns the plant has been monitoring temperatures, pressures and radiation levels, and has seen little change since the steam started rising. Instead, they’re pointing the finger at rainwater, which may be turning to steam as it strikes the hot outer shell of the reactor vessel.
Nevertheless, the plant continues to be a hazard to its surrounding environment. On Monday, TEPCO admitted that radioactivity from the plant is leaching into the water table and flowing from there into the Pacific. The admission confirms what many observers had long suspected: that the company has not been able to contain radioactive water that flows out of the melted cores through cracks and broken pipes.