The CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley reported this story.
Pelley says the meltdown at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant after last spring's tsunami was much worse than was first thought. Correspondent Lucy Craft details how close it came to burning into the earth.
She says reporters recently got their first look at the devastation left in the wake of the accident, and could see heavily reinforced buildings torn to shreds. The damage was even worse because Rector 1 almost had a full meltdown.
"A new report revealed that molten nuclear fuel burned through the 8-foot concrete walls of the first protective casing surrounding the reactor's core, and then ate 3/4 of the way through the second casing," according to the reporter.
If the reactors had burned through, it would have contaminated the ground water and the soil and no one knows how far it would have spread.
Craft interviewed Yukio Takayama, a veteran firefighter who was sent to Fukushima six days after the accident. "The TV was saying, there was no meltdown, no radiation leaks, nothing to worry about," Takayama said. "But when you saw the damage, you knew this was no ordinary accident."
The fuel at the power plant will have cooled enough by the end of the year to allow for a "cold shutdown" of the plant, according to the plant's operator. However, dismantling the reactor and cleaning up the plant could take 30 years.
The reporter uses sound-on-tape to report while the viewer sees images of the destruction and coiled, collapsed framework of the power plant. The broadcast uses simulation videos to show how the reactors work, aerial shots to show the location of the power plant, and scenes of her sit-down interview with the firefighter.