Yet another unanswered question about the actual state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been added. Last December, mysterious plumes of steam was seen rising from the No. 3 reactor building and it is suspected that they probably contain radioactive materials, raising concerns once again about the safety of those doing decontamination work at the crippled plant.
Utility operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. reported on their website that on December 19, 24, 25 and 27, their surveillance cameras detected the rise of the plumes, appearing to come out of the fifth floor of the building. However, they did not offer any explanation as to the source or the cause of the steam. They say that the high levels of radiation have prevented them from conducting a close inspection of the building to determine what exactly is the reason behind the new activity on the site.
The No. 3 reactor is one of the three reactors that suffered a meltdown during the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011. It is considered the worst nuclear accident of recent times and until now, the exact extent of the damage at the plant and the surrounding towns is still undetermined. Unlike the five other reactors at the plant, No. 3 had a mix core with uranium fuel and mixed uranium and plutonium oxide, or MOX nuclear fuel. The storage pond is believed to still hold around 89 tons of the said fuel, containing 514 fuel rods.
Decontamination efforts have been proceeding at a slow pace due to various problems encountered at the plant, including continuous leaks of contaminated water from various areas, with the latest one detected just last December 26. In November, TEPCO already began the dangerous task of removing around 1,500 nuclear fuel rods from the No. 4 reactor. The reactor itself did not meltdown in 2011,but the building suffered hydrogen explosions that blew off its roof and damaged the entire structure. They have successfully removed so far 22 assemblies containing 50-70 fuel rods but the remaining ones will still be challenging.
[ via RT ]