Talk now of a 'terrible' situation without end at Japan plant

In a sign of how bad it may be, Japanese officials finally accept help from American nuclear experts. Here's how the L.A. Times reporters sum things up tonight:

U.S. government nuclear experts believe a spent fuel pool at Japan's crippled Fukushima reactor complex has a breach in the wall or floor, a situation that creates a major obstacle to refilling the pool with cooling water and keeping dangerous levels of radiation from escaping.

That assessment by U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials is based on the sequence of events since the earthquake and information provided by key American contractors who were in the plant at the time, said government officials familiar with the evaluation. It was compelling evidence, they said, that the wall of the No. 4 reactor pool has a significant hole or crack.

Unlike the reactor itself, the spent fuel pool does not have its own containment vessel, and any radioactive particles and gases can more easily spew into the environment if the uranium fuel begins to burn. In addition, the pool, which contains 130 tons of uranium fuel, is housed in a building that Japanese authorities say appears to have been damaged by fire or explosions.

A breach in the pool would leave engineers with a problem that has no precedent or ready-made solution, said Edwin Lyman, a physicist with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

"My intuition is that this is a terrible situation and it is only going to get worse," he said. "There may not be any way to deal with it."


  • The University of California canceled its education abroad programs in Japan for the rest of this academic year and offered to fly students home.
  • There's now a steady exit of foreign business executives from Tokyo "as concerns grow about the possibility of a catastrophic release of radiation," says the New York Times.
  • Ex-Dodger and Angel Bobby Valentine trying to help friends and ex-colleagues in Japan.

  • More by Kevin Roderick:
    Gustavo Arellano, many others join LA Times staff
    Power out Monday across Malibu
    Put Jamal Khashoggi Square outside the Saudi consulate on Sawtelle
    Here's who the LA Times has newly hired*
    LA Observed Notes: Clippers hire big-time writer, unfunny Emmys, editor memo at the Times and more
    Recent Calamities stories on LA Observed:
    Power out Monday across Malibu
    Here we go again
    Cory Iverson, 32, California firefighter dies on Thomas Fire
    Biggest maybe, but not close to the worst LA brush fire
    Mass evacuation below Oroville Dam
    Bet you didn't know quicksand is a real SoCal thing
    Sand Fire grows overnight to 35,000 acres
    New leak over the weekend above Porter Ranch


    LA Observed on Twitter