apan's Fukushima Plant May Have Come Worryingly Close To Another Nuclear Meltdown Thanks To A Hungry Rat

Business Insider

A blackout at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan left three fuel storage pools without fresh cooling water for hours this week, the Associated Press reported, creating fresh fear that a meltdown could occur.

Now the company that runs the plant has announced they think they know what was behind the potentially disastrous power cut — a dead rat.

Tokyo Electric Power Company released this picture of the suspected culprit today:

According to The New York Times, the plant's operators found the rat when they looked inside a faulty switchboard. It had burn marks on its body, suggesting it may have gnawed on a cable. The BBC says the animal was six inches long.

It was a worrying situation at the plant, which had suffered a triple meltdown in 2011 after a tsunami helped knock out cooling systems. Though the plant is technically in a "cold shutdown" phase with teams working to dismantle reactors, there were worries that a cooling-system malfunction could result in a new meltdown if the heat of spent nuclear fuel was allowed to rise.

The spent fuel is especially worrying, the New York Times reports, as the contain far more radioactive material than the reactor cores that melted down in 2011. That meltdown was the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. It is believed the damage will take decades to clean up.

Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports that Tokyo Electric Power Company is facing "sharp criticism" for its response to the power cut, and the "lax practices" that enabled it.



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