There is a risk that molten nuclear fuel can melt through the reactor’s safety barriers and cause a serious radiation leak.
There have already been explosions inside two over-heating reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, and the fuel rods inside a third were partially exposed as engineers desperately fight to keep them cool after the tsunami knocked out systems.
Japanese chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said it was ‘highly likely’ that the fuel rods inside all three stricken reactors are melting.
Some experts class that a partial meltdown of the reactor, but others would only use that term for when molten nuclear fuel melts through a reactor’s inner chamber – but not through the outer containment shell.
As fuel rods melt, they form an extremely hot molten pool at the bottom of the reactor that can melt through even the toughest of containment barriers.
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