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SCIENCE IN THE NEWS WEEKLY

More Setbacks at Japanese Nuclear Plant

Japanese officials said last week that a reactor at the crippled nuclear plant there has been more badly damaged than originally thought, operator Tepco has said. Water is leaking from the pressure vessel surrounding reactor 1--probably because of damage caused by exposed fuel rods. Contaminated water had also entered the sea from a pit near reactor 3 but this has been stopped.

Late last week, Japan urged a power company to suspend all three reactors at a coastal nuclear plant while a sea wall and other structures are built to help ensure that a major earthquake or tsunami does not cause a second radiation crisis. And the country also sought high-tech help from abroad in dealing with the crisis.

The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has done more than spew radiation into the air and sea. It has blown a hole in Japan's energy policy, which had assumed that nuclear power would supply a growing part of the country's needs.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., the government agency that oversees nuclear power plants was accused of being too cozy with the industry.

Also in technology news, computer chip manufacturer Intel announced that it is preparing to mass-produce a transistor with a novel three-dimensional structure.

And volcanologists have created the first ever 3-D simulation of the cataclysmic eruption of Mount St. Helens, which happened 31 years ago this month.


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