Possible new 'fission' found at Japan's nuclear plant

By REUTERS
November 2, 2011 13:28

 
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TOKYO - The operator of tsunami-hit nuclear power plant in Japan said on Wednesday it had found substances in a reactor which could be a result of nuclear fission, a possible setback in efforts to bring the plant to a safe, cold shutdown this year.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami in March and has released radiation into the atmosphere ever since.

Tokyo Electric Power said that it discovered xenon, a substance produced as a byproduct of fission from the No 2 reactor, and had poured in a mixture of water and boric acid, an agent that helps prevent nuclear reactions, as a precaution.

"It can be assumed that isolated criticality took place for a short period of time judging from the presence of xenon," Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told reporters.

Criticality is a state when controlled nuclear reactions take place and nuclear power plants harness the resulting heat to produce electricity.

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