Is Japan crisis becoming a slow meltdown? No, says US Energy secretary. (video)

At a Monitor breakfast Friday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu was asked if the 'bleed and feed' process being used in Japan's nuclear emergency was the equivalent of a meltdown.

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Energy Secretary Steven Chu speaks at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters, on April 1.

The emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan is not the slow-motion equivalent of a reactor meltdown, says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

Speaking Friday at a Monitor-sponsored breakfast for reporters, Secretary Chu was asked if the “bleed and feed” process being used to address the emergency was the equivalent of – and would do as much damage as – a meltdown.

Bleed and feed, Chu said, describes the process being used by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. to cool the reactor core – where “you put in fresh water and you release some steam.”

A Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Chu said, “It is not as though you are just going to a slow meltdown. You have reached steady state.” But he added, “We’d prefer not to be releasing the steam.” The concern is that the escaping steam carries radioactive particles.

Chu said that US experts, working with their Japanese counterparts, are seeking a way to provide a “secondary cooling loop” that would let them cool the reactors without releasing steam.

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