Thursday, April 7, 2011

Conflicting Details Emerge About Status Of Japanese Nuclear Reactor

From Dow Jones Newswires:

There is conflicting information over what details U.S. officials know about a damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor in Japan and the threat it poses.

On Wednesday, Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.) raised alarm bells when he claimed that the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission believes the core of Fukushima's Unit Two had "gotten so hot that part of it has probably melted through the reactor pressure vessel."

If the reactor vessel has in fact been breached, it removes a line of defense in a set of barriers aimed at protecting the public. Shortly after Markey made this claim during a House hearing, however, a top U.S. nuclear official disputed the claim.

"That's not in the situation report that we have from the team in Japan," said Martin Virgilio, deputy executive director for reactor and preparedness programs at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while speaking to reporters Wednesday. " And that [report is] as of this morning."

Markey, a vocal critic of nuclear power, says a member of his staff received an e-mail Tuesday from an NRC official stating the core "may be out of the reactor pressure vessel."

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