Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Planet is Fucked: Jap Nuke Edition

Japan Nuclear Crisis Spreads to Third Plant
Sunday 13 March 2011

Tokyo - Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a quickly escalating nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors, and that they were bracing for a second explosion, even as they appeared to face cooling problems at two more plants and international nuclear experts said radiation had leaked from a fourth.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said the Japanese government had declared a state of emergency at the plant with the radiation leak; that plant is about 60 miles from Sendai, a city of 1 million people in Japan’s northeast. The government did not immediately confirm the report from the I.A.E.A., which said it was not yet clear what caused the release.

Soon after that announcement, Kyodo News reported that a plant about 75 miles north of Tokyo was having cooling system problems, making it the third plant to experience such troubles.

The emergency at the plant that suffered an explosion appeared to be the worst involving a nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago.

The government confirmed that radiation had escaped from the worst-hit plant, and local officials said that 22 people outside the plant showed signs of radiation exposure and about 170 other people near the plant had likely been exposed, but it was unclear if they had received dangerous doses. Early Sunday, the government said three workers were suffering full-out radiation illness.

The developments prompted the evacuation of more than 200,000 people.

On Sunday, Kumiko Fukaya, 48, who fled the area with several family members, she had been lulled into a false sense of complacency at the nearby plants, which she said had not had serious problems before. Then, on 7:30 Saturday morning, loudspeakers hung throughout her town of Tomioka blared a call for evacuation.

“The entire town was enriched by Tokyo Power,” she said, referring to the company that runs the plants, the closest of which is three miles from her home. “I thought they picked a safe and secure location. So instead of opposing the nuclear plant, I felt more security.

“Now I realize it’s a scary thing.”

Japanese officials said they had also ordered up the largest mobilization of their Self-Defense Forces since World War II to assist in the relief effort, including helping with the evacuation of people around the plants.

On Saturday, Japanese officials took the extraordinary step of flooding the crippled No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, 170 miles north of Tokyo, with seawater in a last-ditch effort to avoid a nuclear meltdown. That came after an explosion caused by hydrogen that tore the outer wall and roof off the building housing the reactor, although the steel containment of the reactor remained in place.

Then on Sunday, cooling failed at a second reactor - No. 3 - and core melting was presumed at both, said the top government spokesman, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. An explosion could also rock the No. 3 reactor, Mr. Edano warned, because of a buildup of hydrogen within the reactor.

“The possibility that hydrogen is building up in the upper parts of the reactor building cannot be denied. There is a possibility of a hydrogen explosion,” Mr. Edano said. He stressed that as in the No. 1 unit, the reactor’s steel containment would withstand the explosion.

“It is designed to withstand shocks,” he said. more

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