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First Look Inside Fukushima Reactor

First Look Inside Fukushima Reactor

Employees at Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) have inserted an endoscopic camera into the number two reactor of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant. The footage, released just a few days ago, is the first from inside the damaged reactor since the Japan earthquake of March 11, 2011.

Besides assessing damage, the probe was intended to compare independent measurements against existing sensor-data. The temperature as measured by the camera probe matched the temperature measured by the temperature gauge outside the reactor.

However, the probe was unable to reach the surface of the cooling water, suggesting it rests at a lower level than sensor data indicates. The difference between the sensory data and the true water level may be half a metre or more. Despite this, officials still don’t feel the nuclear fuel is exposed to air, based on other information.

The reactor was announced to have reached cold shutdown last month. This means that since the water has dropped below boiling, the nuclear fuel is no longer able to reheat as water is evaporated away. It is considered stable at this point.

Also visible in the 30-minute video is what seems very much like rain inside the reactor. Since the cooling water is still near to boiling, it seems that water vapor is continually condensing into drops near the top of the container and falling back down to the pool.

The video (which you can watch by clicking through to the BBC link) included several instances of white static, caused by the high background radiation affecting the visual sensors of the camera. The footage is often distorted for the same reason.

The pipes appear to be undamaged, and, insignificantly, paint inside the container can be seen to have peeled off due to the extreme temperatures over previous months.

Tepco is still trying to identify everything seen in the video. However, the information learned from the video should help them to maintain stability in the reactor. One major question that could not be answered with certainty is whether liquid nuclear fuel actually fell to the concrete bottom of the containment vessel, as in a true meltdown situation.

Now that the situation is stable, further investigations can be made. It’s still far too hot, both in terms of temperature and radiation activity, for a person to enter. But Junichi Matsumoto, acting head of Tepco’s nuclear locations, said the company had plans to develop a small robot for a closer look than the probe has been able to give them.

8,000 people were initially evacuated from the area due to high radiation levels resulting from the plant disaster. In many areas, residents are still unable to return home. One suspects the ongoing monitoring and eventual clean-up of the former Fukushima Daichi plant will stretch out to many more years to come.

Related stories:

Post-Fukushima, Nuclear Policies in Flux Around the World

Germany Closes 7 Aging Nuclear Plants as EU Calls for Nuclear Plant Stress Tests

Japan Officials Request Closure of Three Nuclear Reactors

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Photo credit: Digital Globe

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37 comments

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9:15PM PDT on Mar 14, 2012

Thanks for the article.

12:54PM PST on Feb 27, 2012

Total Fukushima Radiation Released Into Ocean, Air, Groundwater, Storage Tanks, etchttp://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3069802
A Green Road Blog
www.agreenroadblog.com
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Tokyo; Is It Safe From Fukushima Radiation?
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3076288
A Green Road Blog
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Fukushima; Is It REALLY In 'Cold Shutdown'? Plus; What Is The Rest Of The Story?
http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3086605
By A Green Road
www.agreenroadblog.com
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Super Solar Storm Predicted To Hit 2013; Carrington Effect, Year Long Power Blackoutshttp://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3107047
via A Green Road Blog
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Low Dos

5:38PM PST on Feb 3, 2012

Oh dear, I really hope Japan fully recovers from the disaster soon.

8:38AM PST on Jan 29, 2012

If Everyone Would Stop Using Electricity, there would be NO NEED for Power of Any Kind. But People want their Cake and to Eat it too. LoL For 1,000's of years we lived without all of this but now we cannot live without it. Something is very wrong

7:54PM PST on Jan 26, 2012

I found Ahab G.'s comment very interesting. Molten salt reactor - I'd like to know more about them.

10:58AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

I hope you all die just like the animals in the reactor area. You are a total BLURR to the US!!!
Shame on all of you!!!

9:11AM PST on Jan 26, 2012

It has taken 10 months to get it under control or stable again. And, it is still not safe for entering the number two reactor’s chamber. I never liked nuclear power. I remember Seven Mile Island and Chernobyl, and the consequences of each incident. Now, after the Fukushima Daichi incident, I truly oppose nuclear power!!!

11:17PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

What a mess, that picture alone is worth a million words, no to nuclear power

8:40PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

Build a molten salt reactor (which can burn off Yucca mountain's "waste" for thousands of years, be shut down Friday and started up Monday, and only produces a very hot shovelable pile of salt rocks if there's ever a leak) and put it under transparent municipal-level management and I guarantee that this will never happen again.

Fukushima is not an example that nuclear will never work - it's an example of capitalism at work. They wanted to be as cheap as possible, and the mix of corporate laziness and horribly outdated technology came back to bite those who sought to run a utility on a market model in the ass.

3:49PM PST on Jan 25, 2012

HORRIFIC.

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