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Japanese NPP radiation could contaminate groundwater

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April 26, 2011, 9:51 a.m. | World — by Interfax-Ukraine

Exhaust stacks of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant loom over a wood at Namie, a town now almost deserted after a 20-kilometer (12 mile) evacuation zone was declared, in northeastern Japan, on Monday April 25, 2011. The no-entry zone was declared last week for areas within the 20-kilometer radius of the radiation-spewing Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.
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Moscow, April 26 (Interfax) - The molten mass from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) could seep underground, said Chornobyl State Committee chairman Vasyl Voznyak. "The biggest danger during the Chornobyl disaster was that the molten mass from the reactor could go downwards. The same danger is now present at Fukushima. It can form a drop that can heat up, burn the bottom, go under the ground and reach the groundwater," Voznyak told a press conference at the Interfax head office on April 25.

Once under the ground, radiation is most likely to stop spreading, but underground waters could take the drop over a vast area, he said. "And there seemed to be no possibility to stop this radiation," Voznyak said.

At the time, Chornobyl clean-up workers took urgent steps to solidify the bottom of the reactor, he added. "We decided to make a large slab under the reactor with an area of 900 square meters and more than 2 meters thick, insert pipes into this lab and fill the pipes with liquid nitrogen that gives a temperature as low as minus 200 degrees," he said.

The only similarity between the Fukushima and Chornobyl disasters is that radioactive discharges occurred in both cases, Yevhen Akimov, Director of the Shelter facility at the Chornobyl NPP, told the press conference.

"But discharges themselves are incomparable. At Fukushima, there were just gaseous discharges, an outflow of liquid, but there was no outflow of fuel beyond the reactor vessel," he said.

There are plans to build shelters at the Fukushima NPP, but these will have a different design goal, Akimov added.

"There are ruined vessels where shelters will be built to prevent discharges into the atmosphere, but those will be shelters of a different sort," he said.

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