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NIRS Report for March 15th Escalation of Containment Problems

March 15, 2011

NIRS Nuclear Information and Resource Service reports:

UPDATE 8:15 am, Tuesday, March 15, 2011. The situation at Fukushima is going from bad to worse. There was briefly a fire in the irradiated fuel pool at Unit 4. The fire is said to be extinguished for now.

Most disturbingly, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) has evacuated all but 50 people from the reactor site. This skeleton crew (of heroic workers) is not likely to be enough to handle simultaneous crises at four reactors and four fuel pools. This may well be a sign that Tepco has given up hope that it can successfully contain this crisis and prevent full meltdowns.

Radiation levels at the site increased overnight (US time) but have dropped a little more recently. Reading in one location was about 4 Rems/Hour. At the site gate readings have dropped from slightly above 1 Rem/hour at 9:30 am (Tokyo time) to about 50 millirems/hour at 3:30 pm (Tokyo time).

Detectable (although still quite low) radiation levels have been recorded in Tokyo, nearly 200 miles to the south.

A 30 kilometer (18.6 miles) exclusion zone has been set up around the site. No one is being allowed inside this zone. However, only residents within 20 kilometers of the site so far have been evacuated; residents from 20-30 kilometers are being told to take shelter indoors.

There is no indication whatsoever that grid power will be available anytime soon. Without power to run safety systems and the clear inability to provide adequate backup power, there is unfortunately little likelihood this crisis can be contained.

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