福島第一原発 あらゆる冷却手段を活用せよ

Do whatever it takes to cool N-reactors
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 19, 2011)
福島第一原発 あらゆる冷却手段を活用せよ(3月18日付・読売社説)

Herculean efforts are being made at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to prevent leaks of radioactive material from spreading.

Self-Defense Forces helicopters on Thursday dumped seawater on one reactor at the plant, while water cannon trucks also blasted water at the reactor's spent fuel rod pool to cool it down. Efforts to restore power at the plant are continuing.

We hope the SDF officials, police officers and power plant workers involved in the highly dangerous task of cooling the damaged nuclear reactors and spent fuel rods will safely accomplish their mission.

The plant has six nuclear reactors. The nuclear cores at the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors are not being cooled sufficiently.

Meanwhile, cooling functions at the storage pools for spent fuel rods at reactors Nos. 3 and 4 have failed, raising fears that this fuel might overheat.

In the worst-case scenario, the nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel would break down, possibly causing leakage of radioactive materials. The situation remains critical.


Daunting task

Using helicopters to dump seawater on the reactor was a desperate attempt to cool the storage pool.

The helicopters can only carry a limited amount of water; they would have to make more than 100 flyovers to fill the 12-meter-deep storage pool.

The helicopter crews also risk being exposed to high levels of radiation when they fly over the reactors.

The water cannon trucks of the Metropolitan Police Department and the SDF will only have a limited effect. But by using various means at their disposal, the authorities are trying to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Despite the incredible efforts being made, they do not appear to be turning the situation around.

The government has sought advice from nuclear power experts in dealing with the worsening problem. However, we think it might have to tap the expertise of specialists in other fields and the industrial sector to help bring the situation under control.

For instance, mobile water-spraying equipment used to fight fires at industrial complexes could be utilized to shoot water at the storage pool. These devices can spray large volumes of seawater higher and farther than the methods deployed so far.


Evacuees need more help

As the serious situation drags on, criticism of the government's response is rising.

Residents living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, while people living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers away were urged to stay indoors.

Many Fukushima residents have fled the prefecture in the past few days, and finding places that can accommodate these evacuees has become a pressing task.

Food and heating fuel are piling up but not reaching people directly affected by the quake.

Some patients who were evacuated from hospitals near the nuclear plant have died due to a lack of medicine, and other causes, at facilities where they were taking shelter.

The prefecture is running out of daily necessities because some truck drivers are hesitant to transport goods to the stricken region.

Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato has called on the government, which issued the evacuation orders, to come up with measures to care for people who have left and those who are afraid to venture out their homes.

Everything must be done to prevent these people from falling victim to secondary disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2011)
(2011年3月18日01時26分 読売新聞)

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