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article imageSpike in pressure at crippled nuclear reactor may require venting

By Kim I. Hartman     Mar 20, 2011 in Environment
Fukushima - Efforts by TEPCO to lower the temperature inside the crippled reactors at Fukushima Daiichi were met with an unexpected spike in pressure in reactor No. 3. Officials are weighing the option of venting the dangerous radioactive gases to combat the problem.
"While the government said the ongoing operation to cool down the overheating spent fuel pools at the No. 3 and No. 4 reactor buildings are showing ''some progress,'' the rise in pressure in the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel at one point highlighted that authorities are walking on thin ice in dealing with the disaster," according to a report by Kyodo News.
"The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) announced earlier Sunday morning that pressure inside the vessel was rising despite efforts to cool the reactor by spraying thousands of tons of seawater on the reactor through the opened roof damaged by an explosion day ago," reports NHK World. NISA said "the pressure must be reduced to protect the containment vessel, which holds radioactive materials inside in the event of an accident."
By Sunday afternoon TEPCO officials announced "The pressure within the reactor containment vessel had begun to stabilize, and gases don't need to be released for the time being." TEPCO was monitoring the situation and would not rule out the possibilities of releasing the radioactive gases into the environment.
We were preparing to implement a measurement to reduce the pressure of the reactor containment vessel (partial discharge of air containing radioactive material to outside) in order to fully secure safety. However, at present, it is not a situation to take a measure immediately to discharge air containing radioactive material to outside now. We will continue to monitor the status of the pressure of the reactor containment vessel.
"It has stabilized," Tokyo Electric manager Hikaru Kuroda told reporters. Kuroda said temperatures inside the reactor reached 572 Fahrenheit (300 degrees Centrigrade), and the company wants to minimize radiation releases," reported AOL News.
Japanese officials are concerned about the high levels of radioactive material escaping the crippled reactors that have contaminated the food chain, including milk, lettuce and spinach, as reported by Digital Journal yesterday.
Tokyo Electric Power Company announced that engineers have completed the connection of power to reactor 2 at the nuclear power plant at Fukushima Daiichi. They are in the process of inspecting equipment after which they will attempt to turn the power on to resume cooling functions at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano "indicated to reporters on Saturday that it was premature to be optimistic about the future of the troubled plant. I hope that safety, stability will be recovered as soon as possible...But I still don't think it is time to say that I think they are going in a good direction or not."
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