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Stabilizing nuclear fuel could take long

Japanese nuclear scientists say if a cooling system can be put in place at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, stabilizing its nuclear fuel could take another 3 months.

The deputy head of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, Takashi Sawada, released the projection by an informal group of 11 society members on Thursday.

He said data published by Tokyo Electric Power Company shows that parts of the fuel rods in reactors 1 and 3 have melted and settled at the bottom of the pressure vessels.

He said if the ongoing water injections continue, the current situation can be maintained.

He said Tepco's most important task is to remove all the contaminated water and rebuild a cooling water circulation system.

He said once these jobs are done, stabilizing the nuclear fuels could take 2 to 3 months, if not longer.

But he warned that the situation could deteriorate if another strong earthquake knocks out power to the plant and makes it impossible to keep the nuclear fuel cool for 2 or 3 days. That would destabilize temperatures and pressures inside the reactors, and the situation would become extremely unpredictable again.

Thursday, April 14, 2011 19:34 +0900 (JST)