Top US Official: Japan Nuclear Facilities Stabilizing

Mar 21, 2011 10:39am

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

A top official at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission today said the situation at Japan’s troubled nuclear complex seems to be stabilizing and containment efforts on three damaged reactors appear to be working.

“At this time it is our assessment that units 1, 2 & 3 have experienced some degree of core damage. Today all three units appear to be in stable condition with sea-water injection being used to keep the reactors cool. Containment integrity for all three units is also believed that it is currently maintained,” NRC Operations Executive Director Bill Borchardt said at a public meeting at agency headquarters in Rockville, MD.

In recent hours some gray smoke was detected over unit 3, but Borchardt said there have been no signs that temperature or radioactive activity have increased.  

“Some gray smoke has emitted from unit 3 which has caused a site evacuation that’s been reported this morning. The source of that smoke is unknown, although there is indication that there’s been no increase in temperature or in radioactive activity,” he said.

Overall Borchardt said the situation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant appears to be “on the verge of stabilizing.”

“In my view the fact that off-site power is close to being available for use of plant equipment is perhaps the first optimistic sign that we’ve had that things could be turning around,” he said. “We believe that the spent fuel pools on units 3 & 4 – which have been two components that were of significant safety concern – that the situation there is stabilizing, that the containment in all three units – 1, 2 & 3 – appear to be functional and that there is water being injected into the reactor levels in units 1, 2 & 3, so I would say optimistically that things appear to be on the verge of stabilizing.”

However he added that certain information from the damaged nuclear complex remains unknown.

“I don’t believe we have anywhere near a clear understanding of what the plant conditions are like within the reactor building, so what kinds of electrical cabling has been damaged and what kinds of pumps and valves remain operable is a significant unknown right now,” he said.

Borchardt today also reiterated that the NRC does not expect any harmful levels of radiation from Japan to reach the United States.

“We feel confident in our conclusion that there is no reason for concern in the United States regarding radioactive releases from Japan,” he said.


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