Heiko Timmers, a physicist with the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defence Force Academy, said it would be difficult to control the nuclear reactors damaged by Japan’s worst earthquake on record.
The situation may become more difficult if the containment chambers of the reactors are breached, he said in a telephone interview from Canberra with Bloomberg Television’s Susan Li.
On the nuclear reactor:
“The situation is certainly serious and dramatic. Until this morning, I thought it was under control because the prime minister said in his earlier press conference that the cooling with seawater is ongoing and running smoothly. I think the concern about reactor 1 and reactor 3 is not so severe. However, because of the explosion at number 2, there is reason to be concerned because that explosion doesn’t seem to be a hydrogen explosion under the roof which just blew off the weather shield. It might have damaged the pressure release tool underneath the reactor and possibly even the concrete wall next to it.
On possibility of a meltdown:
“If there’s a melt on or not is not really important. What is really important is that the containment vessel holds. We will not experience a Chernobyl type situation because that explosion occurred while the reactor was operating and there was no containment vessel. In this case, the reactor has been switched off for three days and we are dealing with the afterglow, the heat which is produced by the decaying fission fragments.
“That heat production decays rapidly and at the moment we are only looking at 10 percent of the heat that was produced on Friday.
“However, if there is some damage to the steel structure or to the bottom of this steel structure then this becomes more and more difficult. The radiation levels outside the reactor, on the plant side within the fence, are such that a person staying there for an hour or two will suffer serious health consequences like vomiting or nausea. That’s why there are only 50 operators left operating from a control bunker, I imagine. It must be very difficult now to control this second unit.
On structure of reactors:
“It should be noted that the reactors themselves, until maybe this morning, dealt with the situation really well. Technologically, the earthquake doesn’t seem to have affected the reactors. What was problematic was the tsunami, which destroyed a lot of peripheral infrastructure like the diesel generators.