Japan Nuke Reactor in Worse Shape Than Thought

Water had leaked from reactor No. 1, exposing fuel rods
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted May 13, 2011 9:04 AM CDT
FILE - In this March 20, 2011 file aerial photo taken by an unmanned drone and released by AIR PHOTO SERVICE, the Unit 1 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is seen in Okuma town, Fukushima...   (AP Photo/AIR PHOTO SERVICE, File)
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(Newser) – Fukushima Dai-ichi's nuclear reactor No. 1 is damaged more seriously than originally thought—it's leaking water, reports the New York Times. The containment vessel at reactor No. 1 had been considered secure; but when Tokyo Electric workers were finally able to gain access to a water gauge yesterday, they discovered the water level in the reactor vessel had dropped to three feet below where the bottom of the fuel rods were supposed to be.

Water has continuously been poured into the reactors so that the fuel remained covered and wouldn't melt. Most likely, the exposed rods did in fact melt, falling to the bottom of the containment vessel early on in the crisis. That's the fate TEPCO was trying to avoid, but it did manage to sidestep the worst-case scenario: a total meltdown brought on by the melting, which could have jumpstarted a nuclear chain reaction that could burn through the plant's barriers. The temperature at the surface of the reactor measures 212 to 248 degrees Fahrenheit, indicating that the fuel is still being kept cool. (Read more Fukushima Dai-ichi stories.)

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