Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant experienced full meltdowns at three reactors in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami in March, the country's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters said Monday.
The nuclear group's new evaluation, released Monday, goes further than previous statements in describing the extent of the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
The plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co., admitted last month that nuclear fuel rods in reactors 2 and 3 probably melted during the first week of the nuclear crisis. It had already said fuel rods at the heart of reactor No. 1 melted almost completely in the first 16 hours after the disaster struck. The remnants of that core are now sitting in the bottom of the reactor pressure vessel at the heart of the unit and that vessel is now believed to be leaking.
A "major part" of the fuel rods in reactor No. 2 may have melted and fallen to the bottom of the pressure vessel 101 hours after the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant, Tokyo Electric said May 24.
The same thing happened within the first 60 hours at reactor No. 3, the company said, in what it called its worst-case scenario analysis, saying the fuel would be sitting at the bottom of the pressure vessel in each reactor building.
"On the basis of what they showed, if there's not fuel left in the core, I don't know what it is other than a complete meltdown," said Gary Was, a University of Michigan nuclear engineering professor and CNN consultant. And given the damage reported at the other units, "It's hard to imagine the scenarios can differ that much for those reactors."