Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has revealed that its reactor number 1, at the devastated Fukushima nuclear power plant, has a hole in its main containment vessel following the meltdown of nuclear fuel rods. This has led to the leaking of more radioactive water than expected.
The revelation of the leak also gives new insights into the chain of events that led to a partial meltdown of the fuel rods in the Fukushima reactor No. 1., after is was hit by a massive tsunami in March; that moment was captured here on video.
Radioactive water has been leaking from the reactor, causing concern about it flowing into the Pacific Ocean and groundwater in the area. Tons of water has been pumped into reactors at the nuclear plant, in an attempt to cool down the fuel rods sufficiently to allow a cold shutdown in 6 to 9 months.
Earlier this week, TEPCO found that the water level in the vessel that contains the fuel rods had dropped 5 meters (16 feet) below the minimum level needed to cover the rods. The conclusion was that there must have been a large leak of radioactive water.
TEPCO has said that based on the water level left around the melted fuel rods, the pressure vessel must have a hole of several centimeters in diameter.
The company said it’s likely that shortly after the nuclear crisis started, the nuclear fuel rods had been entirely exposed to the air.
Nuclear experts have said that TEPCO may now have to build a concrete wall around the reactor, and this could take years.
Image: Fukushima reactor wreckage