Loud noises were heard at Fukushima Daiichi 2 at 6.10am this morning. A major component beneath the reactor may be damaged.
Confirmation of loud sounds this morning came from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA). It noted that “the suppression chamber may be damaged.” It is not clear that the sounds were explosions.
Also known as the torus, this large doughnut-shaped structure sits in the centre of the reactor building at a lower level than the reactor. It contains a very large body of water to which steam can be directed in emergency situations. The steam then condenses and reduces pressure in the reactor system.
The pressure in the pool was seen to decrease from three atmospheres to one atmosphere after the noise, suggesting possible damage. Radiation levels on the edge of the plant compound briefly spiked at 8217 microsieverts per hour but later fell to about a third that.
A close watch is being kept on the radiation levels to ascertain the status of containment. As a precaution Tokyo Electric Power Company has evacuated all non-essential personnel from the unit. The company’s engineers continue to pump seawater into the reactor pressure vessel, in an effort to cool it.
Prime minister Naoto Kan has requested that everyone withdraw from the ten kilometer evacuation zone around the nuclear power plant and that people that stay within remain indoors. He said his advice related to the overall picture of safety developments at Fukushima Daiichi, rather than those at any individual reactor unit.