In Japan, TEPCO finally plugged the leak of radioactive water that was streaming into the sea. Much of the damage has been done, of course, as readings of the water near the Fukushima Daiichi plant show it to be 7.5 million times above normal. Even if you believe that this will have no effect on humans, marine life will almost certainly be impacted.

That radioactive water was leaking from a crack in a pit attached to the No. 2 nuclear reactor. Keep that in mind when you read this horrifying statement from an open Congressional testimony just this morning.

The core at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear reactor has melted through the reactor pressure vessel, Democratic Congressman Edward Markey told a hearing on the nuclear disaster on Wednesday.

“I have been informed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that the core of Unit Two has gotten so hot that part of it has probably melted through the reactor pressure vessel,” said Markey, a prominent nuclear critic in the House of Representatives.

Markey qualified this with “probably,” but my guess is that he’s being more honest than anything we hear out of TEPCO.

I am in no way a nuclear scientist, and there are better people to consult on this site than I, but a core meltdown through the pressure vessel has the potential to be pretty awful, I suspect. It depends on the design of the Fukushima reactors, and the damage to the plant. Keep in mind that the automatic systems aren’t functioning, particularly the cooling system.

I was struck by this in the Wiki:

Cooling will take quite a while, until the natural decay heat of the corium reduces to the point where natural convection and conduction of heat to the containment walls and re-radiation of heat from the containment allows for water spray systems to be shut down and the reactor put into safe storage. The containment can be sealed with release of extremely limited offsite radioactivity and release of pressure within the containment. After a number of years for fission products to decay – probably around a decade – the containment can be reopened for decontamination and demolition.

Residents in that area are going to need a lot more than cash.