Japan nuclear meltdown 'no Chernobyl'

2011-03-12 08:59

Fukushima - Japan warned of a meltdown on Saturday at a nuclear reactor damaged when a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the northeast coast, but said the risk of radiation contamination was small.

Media reports estimate at least 1 300 people may have been killed by the biggest earthquake ever recorded in Japan and then a 10-metre tsunami that swept inland.

Experts said any threat of widespread radiation leaks would be contained as long as the reactor's outer container is intact.

State broadcaster NHK quoted officials as saying there was no need to extend an evacuation area already set up around the damaged plant.

Authorities have been scrambling to reduce pressure at two nuclear power plants in Fukushima, 240km north of Tokyo, damaged by the quake, which measured a massive 8.9, the biggest since records began in Japan 140 years ago.

Jiji news agency quoted nuclear authorities as saying that there was a high possibility that nuclear fuel rods at Tokyo Electric Power's (Tepco's) Daiichi No 1 reactor may be melting or have melted.

Experts said if that is the case, it means the reactor is heating up. If that is not halted, such as by venting steam which releases small amounts of radiation, there is a chance it would result in a rupture of the reactor pressure vessel.

But the risk of contamination can be minimised as long as the external container structure is intact, they said. The worry then becomes whether the quake has weakened the structure.

There has been no official word so far on whether the structure was damaged in the quake.

Japanese officials and experts have been at pains to say that while there would be radiation leaks, they would be very small and have dismissed suggestions of a repeat of a Chernobyl-type disaster.

"No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor. Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction," Naoto Sekimura, a professor at the University of Tokyo, said.

"Even in the worst-case scenario, that would mean some radioactive leakage and equipment damage, but not an explosion. If venting is done carefully, there will be little leakage. Certainly not beyond the 3km radius."

  • Mr. Me - 2011-03-12 10:04

    let's join the Japanese in prayer during this time of need. Lord of heaven pls have mercy upon these children, what they are going through is like in the movies.

  • Grazy - 2011-03-12 10:37

    I'm not even worried about the reactor, for I have full trust in the Jap's ability to handle the situasion with minimal danger to those outside of that reactor. My heart goes out to them as a nation. Many blossoms have fell, but the trees will bloom again.

  • JackieG - 2011-03-12 10:57

    The 480-megawatt Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is a hundred times more powerful than the ill-fated reactor at the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine. On April 26, 1986, the Soviet reactor exploded after a power surge. Four hundred times more radioactive material was released from the crippled nuclear power plant than had been by the atomic bomb at Hiroshima. The fallout was detected across Europe.

      Jaimo - 2011-03-12 11:28

      Thank you Jackie for these vital statistics. The public (we) have a right to know. Govts keep us in the dark and the media knows no better. We in this country (SA) have had no education on nuclear.

      chh - 2011-03-12 11:54

      Actually, Fukushima Dai-ichi is a 4.7GW plant, not much more than the 4GW of Chernobyl.

      Bigglesworth - 2011-03-12 12:03

      With respect, try a little reseach before you post crap like this. The Chernobyl #4 reactor was rated at 1000MW; Daichi 1 was rated at 460MW ie not even half as powerful. Also, the reactors are of 2 fundamentally different designs, with the Chernobyl reactor using a graphite moderator, and the Daichi 1 reactor using a neutron moderator. The graphite fire at Chernobyl was the major contributor to the spread of radioactive material and the resultant fallout. At this stage, no-one knows whether the core of Daichi 1 has been breached, but it is safe to assume that the reactor was SCRAMed at the time of the explosion - not so at Chernobyl. So stop trying to sensationalise this. Comment when there are facts available. And then comment of the fact - not, as in your initial comment, on some made up rubbish.

  • elv - 2011-03-12 11:53

    Our prayers are with the people of Japan and may God give each and every person the strength to bear the burden of this devastation and help them to go forward

  • HowardX - 2011-03-12 12:28

    Guess this is a lesson why not to trust official media statements - now that there's been a huge explosion I think it's safe to say that there is a very real risk of this becoming another Chernobyl.

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