By Peter Behr and ClimateWire | Scientific American | Link to article
Tokyo Electric Co. crews prepared Monday to pump seawater into a third reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in order to prevent or halt a meltdown of its fuel assemblies, hours after a second explosion of leaked hydrogen gas rocked another reactor building at the site on Japan’s northeast coast.
Experts called the injection of seawater and neutron-absorbing boron into the site’s three crippled reactors units a desperation move never attempted before in the industry. It amounted to sacrificing the reactors in an attempt to maintain the structural integrity of the reactor and its encasing concrete containment structure and prevent a potential uncontrolled major radiological release. Three other Fukushima Daiichi reactors had been shut down for planned work before Friday’s 8.9 earthquake and were not part of the crisis.
“I would describe this measure as a Hail Mary Pass but if they succeed, there is plenty of water in the ocean and if they have the capability to pump this water in the necessary volume and at the necessary rates … then they can stabilize the reactor,” said former Energy Department official Robert Alvarez, according to press accounts of his press conference Saturday.