Nuclear spacesuits 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
TOKYO - Japan pumped nitrogen gas into a crippled nuclear reactor on Thursday, trying to prevent an explosive buildup of hydrogen gas.
Engineers worked through the night injecting nitrogen into the containment vessel of reactor No.1 at Fukushima Daiichi power plant, following success in stopping highly radioactive water leaking into the sea at another reactor in the complex.
"It is necessary to inject nitrogen gas into the containment vessel and
eliminate the potential for a hydrogen explosion," an official of plant
operator Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) told a news briefing.
The possibility of another hydrogen explosion like those that ripped
through reactors No.1 and No.3 early in the crisis, spreading high
levels of radiation into the air, was "extremely low," he said.
But TEPCO suspected that the outside casing of the reactor vessel was damaged, said the official.
"Under these conditions, if we continue cooling the reactors with water,
the hydrogen leaking from the reactor vessel to the containment vessel
could accumulate and could reach a point where it could explode," he
A second TEPCO official said 6,000 cubic meters of nitrogen gas would be
pumped into reactor No.1 and the utility was preparing nitrogen gas
injections for reactors No.2 and No.3 in the six-reactor plant as a
safety precaution .
Although TEPCO succeeded after days of desperate efforts to plug the
leak at reactor No.2, they still need to pump 11.5 million liters
(11,500 tonnes) of contaminated water back into the ocean because they
have run out of storage space at the facility. The water was used to
cool overheated fuel rods.
Nuclear experts said the damaged reactors were far from being under
control almost a month after they were hit by a massive earthquake and
tsunami on March 11.