In his Nov. 27 Viewpoint, Diablo Canyon’s Ed Halpin stated that at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, “all seven fuel pools at the site remained intact and the spent fuel in the pools remained safely covered with cooling water” after the earthquake and tsunami caused three nuclear meltdowns.
The pools have remained filled with water, but the condition of the highly radioactive rods inside the pools is largely unknown. The owner of the plant has just begun to offload the fuel rods from Unit 4 — a job that must be done with robotic devices because the radiation exposure would be lethal to humans. It will take well over a year, and has never been done in the history of nuclear industry.
Why do they have to offload all of the fuel? Because the building is collapsing, and the risk of removing the rods is less than the risk of the release of the equivalent of 13,000 Hiroshima bombs stored in just one spent fuel pool. This is the reactor that didn’t melt down; the condition of the fuel rods in other units with ongoing meltdowns is completely unknown.
Mr. Halpin’s rosy description of Fukushima is overly optimistic, to say the least.