Energy

Radioactive Gas Detected at Fukushima Power Plant

| Wed Nov. 2, 2011 5:29 PM EDT

Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant burning on 12 March 2011.: Credit: US Department of Energy.Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant burning on 12 March 2011. Credit: US Department of Energy.Radioactive xenon 135 gas has been detected at reactor two at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan, reports the BBC. This reactor was thought to be close to a stable shutdown.

The good news is there hasn't been any accompanying rise in pressure or temperature, at least as so far reported. The bad news is the xenon gas indicates that nuclear fission has resumed in the reactor. Engineers have applied boric acid, which helps suppress a nuclear reaction.

The New York Times reports the plant's owner, Tokyo Power and Electric (TEPCO), admitted for the first time Wednesday that fuel inside three stricken reactors is likely still experiencing bursts of fission.

This comes just hours after Japanese MP Yasuhiro Sonoda drank water collected and purified from two Fukushima reactors, after reporters challenged him to prove its safety. The Sydney Morning Herald reports he appeared nervous and his hands shook as he drank the water during a televised news conference.