Two nuclear reactors suffer meltdown after quake: TEPCO

08:15, May 25, 2011      

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Photo released by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) shows staff members investigate the No. 1 reactor of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on May 22, 2011. The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Japan, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), announced Tuesday that a partial fuel meltdown was confirmed at the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors at the facility in addition to the No. 1 reactor. (Xinhua)

The operator of the quake and tsunami- battered Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant said Tuesday that fuel rods in the cores of two more reactors most likely suffered meltdown similar to the meltdown already confirmed in the plant's No. 1 reactor.

Junichi Matsumoto, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. ( TEPCO) told reporters that the fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 had almost completely melted, meaning that the severity of the disaster was far more severe than TEPCO originally estimated or revealed.

The embattled utility said however that the temperature of the melted fuel which has settled at the bottom of the flooded reactor pressure vessels was not at levels considered critical.

"It is unlikely that the meltdowns will worsen the crisis because the melted fuel is covered in water," said TEPCO's Takeo Iwamoto.

Matsumoto added that the meltdown of the cores is the "greatest at the No. 1 reactor, followed by the No. 3 unit and then No. 2 and the analysis of the damage only became possible after data from the central control room was retrieved."

The utility firm said that the fuel rods in the No. 2 and 3 reactors probably started melting two or three days after the cooling systems at the nuclear complex were knocked out by the massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

TEPCO could only confirm last week the extent of the damage at the highly troubled No. 1 reactor, when it announced that the meltdown in the reactor started 16 hours after the quake struck and due to rapidly declining water levels nuclear fuel rods became fully exposed.

The view is being maintained by TEPCO that it was the massive tsunami that knocked out the reactors' vital cooling systems and sparked a nuclear crisis equivalent to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, but speculation is becoming rife that the plant may have been damaged by the quake itself and was ill-equipped to deal with such a sizable temblor.

TEPCO had said that despite the revelation of its No. 1 reactor melting down, it would still be able to adhere to its original roadmap for the plant's cold shutdown in six to nine months, although in light of Tuesday's admission some nuclear experts think this is now unlikely.

The utility firm's latest monumental setback comes as a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency arrived in Japan Tuesday to begin investigations at the troubled Fukushima nuclear complex through June 2, and present their findings at a meeting of ministers from IAEA member states on June 20.

Source: Xinhua
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