Robot investigation shows the situation within the Fukushima reactor is much worse than expected
Radiation levels at Fukushima reactor puzzle nuclear experts, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, February 19, 2017 A robot was expected to solidify ways to clean up the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but its short-lived mission raised puzzling questions that could derail existing decommissioning plans.
The robot, Sasori, was abandoned in the melted-down reactor after it became stuck in deposits and other debris that are believed to have interfered with its drive system.
But it did take radiation measurements that indicate Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, was too optimistic about the state and location of the melted fuel within the reactor. The melted fuel, in fact, may be spread out all over the reactor’s containment vessel.
Scientists had believed the melted nuclear fuel fell through the reactor’s pressure vessel and landed on metal grating and the floor of the containment vessel.
The results of Sasori’s investigation, coupled with previous data taken from possible images of the melted fuel, show the situation within the reactor is much worse than expected. And a fresh investigation into the reactor is now nowhere in sight.
A remote-controlled video camera inserted into the reactor on Jan. 30 took what are believed to be the first images of melted fuel at the plant, which suffered a triple meltdown after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Based on the images, TEPCO estimated 530 sieverts per hour at a point almost halfway between the metal grating directly beneath the pressure vessel and the wall of the containment vessel. Black lumps on the grating are believed to be melted fuel.
A different robot sent in on Feb. 9 to take pictures and prepare for Sasori’s mission estimated 650 sieverts per hour near the same spot.
Both 530 and 650 sieverts per hour can kill a person within a minute.
Sasori, equipped with a dosimeter and two cameras, on Feb. 16 recorded a reading of 210 sieverts per hour near the same location, the highest figure measured with instruments in the aftermath of the disaster.
Sasori was supposed to travel along a rail connecting the outer wall of the containment vessel with the metal grating to measure radiation doses and shoot pictures inside, essential parts of work toward decommissioning the reactor.
After traveling only 2 meters, the robot became stuck before it could reach the metal grating.
TEPCO at a news conference repeatedly said that Sasori’s investigation was not a “failure” but had produced “meaningful” results.
However, an official close to TEPCO said, “I had great expectations for Sasori, so I was shocked by how it turned out.”……(This article was compiled from reports by Kohei Tomida, Masanobu Higashiyama and Takashi Sugimoto) http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702190042.html
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