Japan considers desperate measures to prevent radiation

KORIYAMA, Japan — Japan was considering spraying water and boric acid over a stricken nuclear plan in a desperate measure to contain radiation after officials said Wednesday that many fuel roads were damaged, in an escalating crisis caused by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

KORIYAMA, Japan — Japan was considering spraying water and boric acid over a stricken nuclear plan in a desperate measure to contain radiation after officials said Wednesday that many fuel roads were damaged, in an escalating crisis caused by last week’s earthquake and tsunami.

Masami Nishimura, a spokesman for Japan’s nuclear safety agency, said the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., thought of the measures after a string of explosions and fires at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

The latest fire broke out at a reactor early Wednesday, a day after the power plant emitted a burst of radiation that panicked an already edgy Japan following Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami that is estimated to have killed more than 10,000 people.

Hajimi Motujuku, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power, or TEPCO, said the outer housing of the containment vessel at the No. 4 unit at the complex caught fire.

On Tuesday, a fire broke out in the same reactor’s fuel storage pond — an area where used nuclear fuel is kept cool — causing radioactivity to be released into the atmosphere. TEPCO said the new blaze erupted because the initial fire had not been fully extinguished.

About three hours after the blaze erupted Wednesday, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said flames could no longer be seen at Unit 4. But it was unable to confirm that the blaze had been put out, and clouds of white smoke were billowing from the reactor, according to live video footage of the plant.

Also Wednesday, Japan’s nuclear safety agency said 70 per cent of the nuclear fuel rods may have been damaged at another Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor that was first stricken last week, triggering the crisis.

“But we don’t know the nature of the damage, and it could be either melting, or there might be some holes in them,” said an agency spokesman, Minoru Ohgoda.

Japan’s national news agency, Kyodo, said 33 per cent of the fuel rods at a second reactor were also damaged.

The troubles have been caused by overheating of the reactors, which have lost their cooling ability because of damage to equipment from the earthquake and tsunami. Excessive heating will lead to a meltdown of the reactor and release hazardous radiation.

Engineers are desperately trying to cool the reactors and spent fuel rods after the electricity was cut off in the wake of the quake, shutting down their cooling functions.

Boric acid is “important because it captures radiation and helps prevent radiation from leaking,” said Nishimura, the safety agency spokesman.

He said the government had also ordered the utility company to immediately spray water on Unit 4.

Both units 1 and 3 have no roof after earlier blasts, making it easy to dump water onto them, he said. Unit 4 has holes in the building, allowing fire trucks to spray water inside, he said.

Boric acid contains boron, which helps slow nuclear reactions by absorbing neutrons, said Naj Meshkati, a nuclear power plant safety expert at the University of Southern California. But the same acid also melted away steel when it was used repeatedly at a troubled northern Ohio nuclear plant.

Radiation levels in areas around the nuclear plant rose early Tuesday afternoon but appeared to subside by evening, officials said. But the unease remained in a country trying to recover from the massive disasters that are believed to have killed more than 10,000 people and battered the world’s third-largest economy.

The radiation leak caused the government to order 140,000 people living within 20 miles (30 kilometres) of the plant to seal themselves indoors to avoid exposure, and authorities declared a ban on commercial air traffic through the area. Worries about radiation rippled through Tokyo and other areas far beyond that cordon. The stock market plunged for a second straight day, dropping 10 per cent Tuesday. However, the market soared more than 6 per cent in Wednesday morning trading.

The re-emergence of the fire at the spent fuel pond in Unit 4 makes that “my biggest worry” because “the spent fuel pool really doesn’t have any containment over it and it’s very exposed,” said Meshkati. “There is radioactive fuel that could cause some problems.”

The fire could put all sorts of radioactive isotopes — such as cesium and iodine — into the air, Meshkati said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A man rides his bicycle past fields covered with volcanic ash a day after the La Soufriere volcano erupted, in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Saturday, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Lucanus Ollivierre)
‘Huge’ explosion rocks St. Vincent as volcano keeps erupting

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — La Soufriere volcano fired an enormous amount of… Continue reading

Interior Health nurses administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines to seniors and care aids in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Kelowna Capital News)
Canada set to receive 1M Pfizer-BioNTech doses, Moderna playing catch-up

OTTAWA — The federal government is expecting Moderna to make good on… Continue reading

This satellite photo from Planet Labs Inc. shows Iran's Natanz nuclear facility on Wednesday, April 7, 2021. Iran's Natanz nuclear site suffered a problem Sunday, April 11, involving its electrical distribution grid just hours after starting up new advanced centrifuges that more quickly enrich uranium, state TV reported. It was the latest incident to strike one of Tehran's most-secured sites amid negotiations over the tattered atomic accord with world powers. (Planet Labs Inc. via AP)
Iran blames Israel for sabotage at Natanz nuclear site

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Iran blamed Israel on Monday for a… Continue reading

Map of Syria. Turkey is to the north. (File photo)
Investigation finds Syria likely behind 2018 chlorine attack

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — An investigation by the global chemical weapons watchdog… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Ron Howard is photographed at the "Inferno" film premiere on Oct. 25, 2016 in Los Angeles. (Buckner/Rex Shutterstock/Zuma Press/TNS)
Brothers Ron and Clint Howard have memoir coming in October

NEW YORK — Filmmaker-actor Ron Howard and actor Clint Howard, brothers, former… Continue reading

FILE - In this Saturday, March 27, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Sabres’ Taylor Hall plays against the Boston Bruins during the second period of an NHL hockey game, in Boston. The Buffalo Sabres could trade 2018 MVP Hall, who signed for just this season and is a pending free agent. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer, File)
Boston Bruins acquire Taylor Hall to kick off NHL trade deadline day

Trade deadline day in the NHL has started with the Boston Bruins… Continue reading

The Huawei logo displayed at the main office of Chinese tech giant Huawei in Warsaw, Poland, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. Poland’s Internal Security Agency has charged a Chinese manager at Huawei in Poland and one of its own former officers with espionage against Poland on behalf of China. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
Huawei, HSBC agree on document deal for extradition case

HONG KONG — Chinese telecommunications equipment firm Huawei said Monday that it… Continue reading

The Montreal Police logo is seen on a police car in Montreal on Wednesday, July 8, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

MONTREAL — Hundreds of protestors gathered in Montreal on Sunday in defiance… Continue reading

Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Most Read