According to the Japan Times, The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) reported that radiation levels in the air around Reactor 1 were at 4000 millisieverts per hour, an exposure level equivalent to approximately 40,000 chest x-rays. TEPCO says it has no plans to send workers into the area because of its dangerously high radioactivity.
On Friday, a spokesman for TEPCO announced that steam was rising from underneath the reactor building. That afternoon, Japanese national television carried blurry footage of smoke rising from an opening in the floor.
Underneath the reactor, an estimated 40,000 tons of "highly contaminated" radioactive water have collected in what is known as the pressure suppression containment vessel, and it's this water that is believed to be producing the steam. TEPCO officials warn that the water will begin to overflow from the storage vessel by June 20 as it reaches its maximum capacity, sooner if there are heavy rains.
In mid-May, TEPCO officials admitted that Unit 1 at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant had been "in a state of meltdown" with nuclear fuel rods exposed, and likely having melted through the bottom of their steel containment vessel, following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Several days later, the company admitted the same may also be true for Units 2 and 3.
In related news, as we noted in last Tuesday's Green News Report, following massive demonstrations last weekend in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced the country will decommission all of their nuclear plants by 2022 in favor of safe renewable energy initiatives.
"Step by step, we will abandon nuclear energy by the end of 2022," Merkel said. "This path is a big challenge for Germany, but it also means huge opportunities for future generations. We believe that our country can become a front runner for the creation of renewable energy, and as the first large industrial nation, we can create such a change toward highly efficient and renewable energies, with all its opportunities for export, developments and technology which create jobs."
In the U.S., no such plans for moving away from nuclear energy in the future, much less dismantling existing plants, have been announced, or even advocated by the Obama administration in light of Japan's nuclear disaster. The Fukushima accident is the worst since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, and one which promises to plague the nation for months, and more likely years, into the future.