Fears Growing as Fukushima Reactor Temperature Rising

A worker wearing a protective suit checks the connection point of a hose to the No.2 reactor during a response training session as part of a safety regulations exercise at the first floor of the waste treatment building of TEPCO's tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima prefecture, in this handout photo taken January 26, 2012. (TEPCO)

Fears Growing as Fukushima Reactor Temperature Rising

No. 2 Reactor Temperature Up to 82C

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has said today that the temperature inside the No. 2 reactor in the Fukushima nuclear power plant had risen to 82C, a high since the reactor had attained a cold shutdown in December, raising concerns that the plant is no longer stable.

Kyodo news reports:

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday the temperature at the bottom of the No. 2 reactor at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant rose further to 82 C, but the reactor has not gone critical.

While the thermometer reading at shortly after 2 p.m. marked a new high since the reactor attained a cold shutdown in December, the utility known as TEPCO said it has confirmed that sustained nuclear reactions are not taking place in the reactor as no radioactive xenon has been detected inside its containment vessel.

TEPCO reported the latest development immediately to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry as the temperature exceeded the limit of 80 C designated by the company's safety regulation for maintaining a cold shutdown, it said.

It is considered desirable to keep the temperature below 80 C, while the bottom of a reactor pressure vessel must be kept below 100 C in a stable cold shutdown, in view of the margin of error of thermometers, according to TEPCO officials.

The Guardian adds that the temperature may actually be over 100C:

Confirmation that the temperature has risen above 80C could force the government to reverse its declaration two months ago that the crippled plant was in a safe state known as cold shutdown.

Cold shutdown is achieved when the temperature inside the reactors remains below 100C and there is a significant reduction in radiation leaks. Given that Tepco assumes a margin of error of 20C, the actual temperature could have risen to 102C.

Plant workers are unable to take accurate readings of the temperature inside the damaged reactor because radiation levels are still too high for them to enter and examine the state of the melted fuel, which is thought to be resting at the bottom of the reactor's pressure vessel.

The result has been a series of wildly different readings: two other thermometers positioned at the bottom of No 2 reactor showed the temperature at 35C, local media reported.

Tepco said it did not know the cause of the apparent temperature rise, but speculated that it might be due to problems with the supply of coolant or a faulty thermometer.

* * *

Calls for an end to nuclear power in Japan are growing. Yesterday thousands of people took part in a demonstration against nuclear power.

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.