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Japan: Mixed Messages And A Lava-Like Flow Of Molten Nuclear Fuel

Paresh Dave |
March 29, 2011 | 11:14 a.m. PDT

Deputy Editor

Kan. (Creative Commons)
Kan. (Creative Commons)

Blamed by opposition members in parliament for poor handling of Japan's nuclear crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan instead faulted nuclear power plant operator TEPCO for failing to maintain high standards and prepare for the worst.

U.S. energy and nuclear regulatory officials speaking before a Senate committee noted the recovery would be slow and that regular cooling still needed to be restored to the reactors.

Dousing water on the problem hasn't been enough, one expert said. Richard Lahey, an official at General Electric when the company installed the units at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, told the Guardian that TEPCO had "lost the race" to save one reactor, where nuclear fuel had started to seep out onto the concrete floor.

"It won't come out as one big glob; it'll come out like lava, and that is good because it's easier to cool," he said.

Though reports emerged Tuesday that new tests have found water and food are no longer contaminated by radiation, tests right around the power plant show soil contamination. That could endanger ground water supplies and push more radiation emissions into the ocean. Radiation particles started to reached the U.S. Atlantic seaboard this week.

Japan, the world's third largest economy, passed its budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Tuesday. But the question how to recover from a $300 billion catastrophe was still up in the air.

The situation near the reactors could become more clear this week when robots from the U.S. capable of measuring radiation levels and taking pictures up-close arrive in Japan.

Reach deputy editor Paresh Dave here. Follow him on Twitter: @peard33.



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