by Marie-Noëlle Bertrand
Translated Friday 20 May 2011, by Derek Hansonand reviewed by
Two employees of TEPCO entered, on Thursday, the enclosure of reactor number 3, carrying out a round of inspection for some ten minutes before leaving the highly contaminated area.
It was the first time, since the tsunami of March 11, that a team had been sent into the very interior of this third damaged section of the power plant, the last part of the plant not to have been inspected.
In the beginning of May, a team was able to penetrate reactor number 1, in order to measure the radioactivity and to try to evaluate the situation. On Wednesday, four persons made the same sort of evaluation of reactor number 2. Each of these visits tended to confirm what TEPCO has been suggesting since the beginning of this week: the accident and the damage produced are worse than had been said up until now.
Besides the damage to the roof of the enclosure, destroyed some days after the tsunami by an explosion due to the accumulation of hydrogen inside its walls, the reactor seems to have entered into fusion. As with the reactors 1 and 2, its fuel seems to have melted because it was not submerged for several hours, perhaps even for several days, after the destruction of the cooling systems and of the electrical supply.
No information, yesterday, either confirmed or denied the presence of new leaks of radioactivity. This said, the press agencies reported that many experts doubt that TEPCO will be able to meet its deadlines for stabilizing the situation prior to January 2012.
Is there a hope of learning more? The International Atomic Energy Agency has prepared to send, next week, a team for inspection. Some 20 specialists will remain on site until 2 June, in order to carry out "a preliminary evaluation of questions of security".