60-Second Earth

What Does the Fukushima Meltdown Mean for U.S. Reactors?

It is now clear that at least one reactor at Fukushima experienced a full core meltdown, so what does that mean for similar nuclear power plants in the U.S.? David Biello reports

"Meltdown." It's one of the scarier words in the nuclear lexicon. When preceded by the word "partial," it's less frightening. And "partial meltdown" was the case for three Japan reactors following the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.

But the word "partial" no longer applies. Tokyo Electric Power Company now says that the nuclear fuel rods fully melted down in Fukushima reactor number one and burned a hole in the thick steel vessel surrounding them.

What does all this mean for eventual control of the stricken reactor as well as the cleanup? It's not clear. There are literally thousands of tons of radioactive water pooled in the power plant's basement.

But what is clear is that several nuclear power plants in the U.S. have the same safety systems that failed in Japan. And one of them—Vermont Yankee—just got another extension of its license to operate.

Physicist Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research described the license extension as quote "not consistent with safety." The question now is whether the U.S. will re-evaluate its nuclear power plans in the wake of this latest meltdown.

—David Biello

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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