After things appeared to be stabilizing Sunday, workers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant evacuated the facility again Monday. A think gray cloud of smoke emerged from Fukushima reactor No.3. The same reactor that contains a plutonium mixture in it′s fuel rods. Workers had been using water cannons from a fire truck to cool the No.3 reactor. So far, there is no word on any increase in radiation levels from this new cloud.
Even before the cloud emerged, engineers at the plant have become concerned about another build-up of pressure within the reactor containment vessel. The steel and concrete shell that covers the actual reactor vessel. Last week Monday, pressure from a hydrogen gas bubble exploded inside the No.3 reactor, blowing it′s roof completely off. A similar explosion occurred on Saturday at reactor No.1.
Some 180 plant workers, firemen and military volunteers have been working in 2-hour shifts in the struggle to restore electrical power to the cooling systems for the six reactors. Power has been restored to No.s 5 and 6, however, there is yet any news that the water pumps are functional. Each reactor building also has a storage pool for keeping spent fuel rods cool and safe. Reactor No.4′s storage pool ran dangerously low of water last week, causing a sharp spike in radiation levels which forced the then 50 plant workers to evacuate to safety.
Amid hopes of stabilizing the situation at the Fukushima Dia-ichi nuclear power plant is the growing realization that the facility will eventually have to begin the entombing process. There seems little doubt at this point that merely cleaning up the damaged Fukushima reactors will be sufficient, nor the hope of restoring them to working condition. The damaged reactors, those whose nuclear cores have had meltdowns, as well as the spent fuel rod storage pools, will have to be buried under many feet of sand and concrete. The same was done at Chernobyl as a ‘temporary’ fix to contain further radioactive fallout for 35 years. A more permanent sarcophagus costing one billion dollars is planned to entomb the entire Chernobyl reactor building. Plutonium-239, which is present at both Chernobyl and Fukushima reactor No.3, has a half-life of radioactive decay for some 24,100 years.