NHK is reporting that TEPCO has admitted that two spent fuel pool gates at unit 3 are damaged. They described the first gate as being shifted out of position and that it likely was caused by the refueling crane when it fell into the pool during the blast.
The utility considers the second gate to also be shifted but didn’t elaborate. They are currently working on determining if removing the remaining sections of the crane might cause the pool to leak through the gate.
This set of metal doors block water from leaving the spent fuel pool. During refueling the reactor well is flooded with water. This allows fuel to be lifted out of the reactor and passed underwater through the canal between the reactor well and spent fuel pool. During normal operation of a reactor the reactor well is drained of water. These two metal gates are then the only method to contain water in the spent fuel pool. The fuel transfer canal sits partially into the depth of the spent fuel pool so its failure wouldn’t cause the pool to drain entirely but it could cause substantial draining of the pool that could cause a problem at the plant for both cooling the fuel pool and providing sufficient shielding for the fuel. This risk needs to be further analyzed.
The photo above, taken in 2010 inside unit 3 Fukushima Daiichi shows a fuel transfer using the fuel canal. TEPCO has not released any documentation or images yet on the gate issue.
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