Japan's Fukushima Nuclear Plant Has a Serious Rat Problem

A cooling fuel pool was shut down for a few hours Monday at Japan's embattled Fukushima nuclear power plant so workers could remove two dead rats. It was the third time in a little over a month that cooling equipment had to be shut down for rat related issues — and right now there are more radioactive rodent recurrences than answers.

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Three times is a trend, friends. Japan Today reports Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) shut down one of the cooling systems Monday to remove two more dead rats and install a net to stop the recurring rodent problem — hopefully. On March 20, TEPCO lost power to its cooling system for 29 hours after a rat short-circuited a switchboard and caused the shutdown. At the time, the utility company released an hilarious and/or disgusting photo of the fried rat (right). That little guy had seen better days. And then a few weeks later construction of a rodent-catching net halted power for another two hours after they bungled that process, too — details have yet to emerged from the investigation into that particular roden shutdown.

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The rat problem has led to some of the biggest cooling outages since an earthquake caused major outages to the plant two years ago. If a cooling system is offline for too long the nuclear fuel rods emit strong radioactive energy. Since the earthquake, Fukushima has been plagued with troubles, including a lingering cancer risk, a heaping of blame for childhood obesity, and mutating butterflies

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So: The first net either didn't work or the rodents are radioactive, have buzz-saws for teeth, and are chewing through whatever industrial material designed to keep them at bay, right? Probably not. So far the rodents have not been of unusual size. The first one was only about six inches long. That's at least half the size of some New York City subway rats.

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[Inset via Reuters]