Monday, March 14, 2011

Japan: Third Major Explosion Deepens Nuclear Crisis, PM Addresses Nation

Japan's Fukushima Nuclear power plant suffered another horrendous explosion of its number-two reactor, worsening the nuclear crisis.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power, said late today that repeated efforts to inject seawater into the reactor had failed, causing water levels inside the reactor's containment vessel to fall and exposing the nuclear fuel rods.The water levels have dropped to critical levels, exposing the rods almost completely.

Workers were unable to continue injecting seawater into the reactor because its vents — necessary to release pressure in the containment vessel by allowing radioactive steam to escape — had stopped working properly.

“It’s important to bear in mind that the No.3 reactor uses mixed oxide or mox fuel, which contains plutonium and is more dangerous,” said Philip White of the Tokyo-based Citizen’s Nuclear Information Centre (CNIC).

“Plutonium has a lower melting point and has longer-lived isotopes,” White told FRANCE 24. “It is worrying that this reactor should go.”

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan addressed the nation and urged the population to remain calm in the face of the crisis.

He warned that further radiation leaks were possible at the plant in Fukushima,but that the government was doing everything in its power to secure the damage and restore services.He also said that radiation has spread from the reactors and that anyone living less than 20km away from the facility should leave the area, because the risk of a nuclear leak is rising.

Japan has asked the US for help to stop the American-designed reactors plunging into uncontrollable meltdown.

Non-essential technicians were evacuated from the facility after radiation levels around the Fukushima No 1 power plant briefly rose by four times in the wake of the blast.

The plant operators said its reading had reached 8,217 microsieverts per hour – described by broadcaster NHK as equivalent to eight times the radiation a person would usually experience in a year.

Fifty workers have remained at the plant, fighting a heroic battle to cool three reactor cores after the blast.

We'll see what develops.

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