Good news and bad news, mostly just uncertain news. A cable needed to power equipment has been installed. It turns out that one of the reactors uses Plutonium. Ooops.
Cable reaches Japan nuclear plant
Fukushima on Thursday: Prospects starting to look good ‘Worst probably over’
The story of the quake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear powerplant continues to unfold, with reports suggesting that the situation with respect to the three damaged reactors at the plant may soon be stabilised without serious consequences. The focus of attention has now moved to problems at a pool used to keep spent fuel rods cool. There remain no indications that anyone has yet suffered any radiation health effects, and the prospect is growing that this will remain the case.
Engineers at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant have successfully connected a power line to reactor 2, the UN’s nuclear watchdog reports.
Restoring power should enable engineers to restart the pumps which send coolant over the reactor.
emergency workers focused their efforts on the storage pool at reactor 3, the only unit at the site that runs on mixed oxide fuel, which contains reclaimed plutonium. The strategy appeared to conflict with comments made by US nuclear officials and Sir John Beddington, the UK government’s chief science adviser, who are most concerned about the storage pool at reactor 4, which they say is now completely empty.
“The water is pretty much gone,” Beddington said, adding that storage pools at reactors 5 and 6 were leaking. “We are extremely worried about that. The reason we are worried is that there is a substantial volume of material there and this, once it’s open to the air and starting to heat up, can start to emit significant amounts of radiation.”
All of the fuel rods in all of the other reactors are made essentially of uranium with a zirconium cladding to seal in radioactive emissions. Reactor 4 uses something different. Its fuel rod are only 94% uranium, with 6% plutonium stirred in and then the same zirconium shell. This mixed oxide (hence the MOX moniker) formulation has one advantage–and a number of disadvantages.
The advantage–no surprise–is money. Plutonium is a natural byproduct of radioactive decay and spent fuel rods are thus full of the stuff. You can always put them into long term storage for a few dozen millennia–which is where most spent rods have to go-but you can also reprocess some of the waste and combine it with pricier uranium for a cheaper and still energy-intensive rod. With nuclear power still more expensive than fossil fuels like coal, manufacturers need to save where they can to remain competitive, and MOX is a good budget cutter.
But MOX is also temperamental. Physicist Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Takma Park, MD., spoke to TIME earlier in the week and heaped scorn on the Mark 1 reactors used at the Daiichi site. His criticism in that conversation was the comparatively flimsy (by nuclear reactor standards at least) containment vessels used in the Mark 1s. But he’s no fan of the use of MOX either.
Read more: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2011/03/17/mox-the-fukushima-word-of-the-day-and-why-its-bad-news/#ixzz1GtZa1pwn
Finally, here’s the latest areal footage from the site: