Fukushima Meltdown Worse Than Previous Estimates: TEPCO

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Fukushima Meltdown Worse Than Previous Estimates: TEPCO

Company releases new findings which show nearly all nuclear fuel melted in Reactor 3 following 2011 earthquake and tsunami

Workers at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station work among underground water storage pools on 17 April 2013. (Photo: Greg Webb / IAEA)

The meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan was more severe than previously acknowledged, owner Tokyo Electric Power Company announced Wednesday, according to reports from Japanese media.

The company released new estimates that nearly every fuel rod at Reactor 3, located at No. 1 plant, melted as a result of Japan's March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and most likely fell to the bottom of the containment unit. The finding is far higher than the company's previously stated estimates in which it told people that only 63 percent of the reactor's nuclear fuel had melted. Furthermore, TEPCO's new statement acknowledges that the fuel began melting six hours earlier than previously believed.

“It is still impossible for us to evaluate the potential impact (of the findings) on the decommissioning of the reactor," a TEPCO official stated following the release of the findings, according to Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun.

But Japanese newspaper The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that the finding might further complicate the troubled decommissioning of the plant.

The paper explains:

As the core meltdown is now believed to have started earlier than was previously thought, the amount of melted nuclear fuel that passed into the containment vessel through the pressure vessel is considered to have been greater, making it technically more difficult to extract the melted fuel and dispose of it.

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