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Situation Update No. 28
On 15.03.2011 at 03:50 GMT+2
Japan's nuclear crisis deepened Tuesday as a third blast and a fire rocked a stricken atomic power plant, sending radiation up to alarming levels,
after a quake-tsunami catastrophe. Radiation levels around the Fukushima No.1 plant on the eastern coast have "risen considerably", Prime Minister
Naoto Kan said, and his chief spokesman said the level was now considered high enough to endanger human health. Kan told people living up to 10
kilometres (six miles) beyond a 20km (12-mile) exclusion zone around the nuclear plant to stay indoors. The fire was burning in the plant's
number-four reactor, he said, meaning that four out of six reactors at the site 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo are now in trouble. As
well as the atomic emergency, Japan is struggling to cope with the enormity of the damage from Friday's record-breaking quake and the tsunami which
raced across vast tracts of its northeast, destroying all before it. The official death toll has risen to 2,414, police said Tuesday, but officials
say at least 10,000 are likely to have perished. A huge explosion rocked the ageing Fukushima facility shortly after dawn Tuesday, the third since
Friday as engineers struggle to control overheating reactors. Japan's nuclear safety agency said the operator of the stricken plant believed the seal
around the reactor, which is critical for preventing a major radiation leak, had not been holed and was doing further checks.
But Kan's top spokesman Yukio Edano said there appeared to be damage to the structure around the number-two reactor, the third to be hit by an
explosion since Friday's disaster which knocked out cooling systems. Edano, who is the chief cabinet secretary, told reporters there could be damage
to the suppression pool of the reactor, which forms the base of the container vessel that seals the fuel rods. Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
(TEPCO) "said it believes the container vessel has not sustained damage such as a hole, judging from the fact that the radiation level has not
jumped", a safety agency spokesman told AFP. TEPCO said some workers had been evacuated from the number-two reactor at the plant, but those pumping
water to cool the reactor were still at work. Higher radiation levels were earlier recorded in Ibaraki prefecture north of Tokyo after the the blast,
Kyodo News reported, but it quoted the safety agency as saying that the level did not pose health risks. On Saturday an explosion blew apart the
building surrounding the plant's number-one reactor but the seal around the reactor itself remained intact, officials said.
On Monday, a blast at its number-three reactor shook the facility, injuring 11 people and sending plumes of smoke billowing into the sky. Late Monday
TEPCO said fuel rods at the number-two reactor were almost fully exposed after a cooling pump there temporarily failed. The UN's nuclear watchdog,
the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Tokyo had asked for expert assistance in the aftermath of the quake which US seismologists are now
measuring at 9.0-magnitude, revised up from 8.9. But the IAEA's Japanese chief Yukiya Amano moved to calm global fears that the situation could
escalate to rival the world's worst nuclear crisis at Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986. "Let me say that the possibility that the development of
this accident into one like Chernobyl is very unlikely," he said. Officials had already declared the exclusion zone within a 20-km radius of the
plant and evacuated 210,000 people.
Situation Update No. 27
On 15.03.2011 at 03:46 GMT+2
An explosion that released radioactive material occurred in reactor No. 2 at the nuclear center at Fukushima, in northeastern Japan, on Monday. The
blast damaged part of the primary container surrounding the reactor's core and caused an escape of an undetermined quantity of radioactive material,
the Nuclear Security Agency said. The Kyodo news agency reported that radiation levels in the vicinity "exceeded the legal limit" after the
explosion, which occurred at 6:10 a.m. on Tuesday local time (2110 GMT on Monday), shortly after the Japanese government admitted that the reactor
continued to be unstable after it suffered damage in Friday's magnitude-9.0 earthquake. The operating crew at the plant worked all night to inject
seawater into the secondary containment structure in an attempt to cool down the core and prevent a meltdown that could emit radioactive material, but
that did not have the desired effect and the reactor was not able to be stabilized. If the nuclear fuel in the core begins to melt down, that would
constitute an emergency situation of the highest order because of the potential for a severe radioactive leak that could contaminate the area. Reactor
No. 2 at Fukushima on Monday suffered a failure of one of the 10 valves associated with its cooling system, something similar to what occurred before
reactors 1 and 3 at the same center exploded after the quake.