Spent fuel rods stored on top of the damaged reactors are using up the water meant to keep the cool. At least one pool is boiling.
Is it common practice to store spent fuel rods on top of a reactor? Apparently, there were some inside the buildings housing the containment chamber. Since two of these have exploded, it would appear they have been scattered about.
Does anybody else store spent nuclear fuel on top of reactors?
“It’s worse than a meltdown,” said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists who worked as an instructor on the kinds of General Electric reactors used in Japan. “The reactor is inside thick walls, and the spent fuel of Reactors 1 and 3 is out in the open.”
A spokesman for the Japanese company that runs the stricken reactors said in an interview on Monday that the spent fuel at the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini plants had been left uncooled since shortly after the quake.
The company, Tokyo Electric, has not been able to cool the spent fuel pools because power has been knocked out, said Johei Shiomi, the spokesman. “There may be some heating up,” he said.
From the article -
Even as workers race to prevent the radioactive cores of the damaged nuclear reactors in Japan from melting down, concerns are growing that nearby pools holding spent fuel rods could pose an even greater danger.
The pools, which sit on the top level of the reactor buildings and keep spent fuel submerged in water, have lost their cooling systems and the Japanese have been unable to take emergency steps because of the multiplying crises.
By late Tuesday, the water meant to cool spent fuel rods in the No. 4 reactor was boiling, Japan’s nuclear watchdog said. If the water evaporates and the rods run dry, they could overheat and catch fire, potentially spreading radioactive materials in dangerous clouds.