UPDATE AS OF 9:00 P.M. EDT, WEDNESDAY, MARCH 16:
Crews began aerial water spraying operations from helicopters to cool reactor 3 at Fukushima Daiichi shortly before 9 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 16. The operation was planned for the previous day, but was postponed because of high radiation levels at the plant. News sources said temperatures at reactor 3 were rising. Each helicopter is capable of releasing 7.5 tons of water.
Spokesmen for TEPCO and Japan’s regulatory agency, Nuclear and Industry Safety Agency, on March 17 Japan time refuted reports that there was a complete loss of cooling water in the used fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi reactor 4.
The spokesmen said the situation at reactor 4 has changed little during the day today and water remained in the fuel pool. However, both officials said that the reactor had not been inspected in recent hours.
“We can’t get inside to check, but we’ve been carefully watching the building’s environs, and there has not been any particular problem,” said TEPCO spokesman Hajime Motojuku.
At about 7 p.m. EDT, NISA spokesman Takumi Koyamada said the temperature reading from the used fuel pool on Wednesday was 84 degrees Celsius and that no change had been reported since then. Typically, used uranium fuel rods are stored in deep water pools at temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius.
Recent radiation levels measured at the boundary of the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been dropping steadily over the past 12 hours, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Wednesday night (U.S. time).
At 4 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, a radiation level of 75 millirem per hour was recorded at the plant’s main gate. At 4 p.m. EDT, the reading at one plant site gate was 34 millirem per hour. By comparison, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s annual radiation dose limit for the public is 100 millirem. Radiation readings are being taken every 30 minutes.
Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said earlier today a radiation level of 33 millirem per hour was measured about 20 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi plant earlier this morning. He said that level does not pose an immediate health risk.
Edano said that TEPCO has resumed efforts to spray water into the used fuel pool at the damaged reactor 4.
TEPCO also continues efforts to restore offsite power to the plant, with up to 40 workers seeking to restore electricity to essential plant systems by Thursday morning, March 17.
The Wall Street Journal confirms the report, but suggests an external power line will be connected on Thursday afternoon (local time).