Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan: The Situation Worsens

The situation in Japan continues to deteriorate in the aftermath.

Warnings of new, additional massive earthquakes and famine already predicted; not to mention additional nuclear facilities at various stages of meltdown. We are sadly, just at the beginning of this carnage. 10,000 already feared dead and that number will grow exponentially in the coming weeks.

Analysis: How bad is the nuclear accident in Japan?

The Japanese nuclear safety agency rated the damage at a nuclear power plant at Fukushima at a four on a scale of one to seven, which is not quite as bad as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979, which registered a five. But what does that mean?

The International Atomic Energy Agency - an inter-governmental organization for scientific co-operation in the nuclear field - said it uses the scale to communicate to the public in a consistent way the safety significance of nuclear and radiological events.

The Chernobyl explosion in the Ukraine in 1986, the worst nuclear power accident ever, was rated a seven. That was the only event classified as a major accident in nuclear power history, exploded due to an uncontrolled power surge that damaged the reactor core, releasing a radioactive cloud that blanketed Europe.

The blast at the 40-year-old Daiichi 1 reactor came as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) worked to reduce pressure from mildly radioactive steam in the core after the total loss of power needed to keep water circulating to prevent the reactor fuel from overheating.

That blast led to fears of a disastrous meltdown at the plant, which automatically shut after the quake

Another reactor at Fukushima nuke plant loses cooling functions

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday another reactor of its quake-hit Fukushima nuclear power plants had lost its cooling functions, while at least 15 people at a nearby hospital were found to have been exposed to radioactivity.

The utility supplier notified the government early Sunday morning that the No. 3 reactor at the No. 1 Fukushima plant had lost the ability to cool the reactor core. The reactor is now in the process of releasing radioactive steam, according to top government spokesman Yukio Edano.

It was the sixth reactor overall at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants to undergo cooling failure since the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Japan on Friday.

An explosion Saturday at the No. 1 plant blew away the roof and the walls of the building housing the No. 1 reactor's container

Japan quake: Fears of a second nuclear reactor blast

There is a risk of a second explosion at the quake-hit Fukushima power station, Japanese officials have said.

Meanwhile, police have warned that the death toll in tsunami-hit Miyagi prefecture alone could exceed 10,000.

Miyagi includes the port of Minamisanriku which was mostly swept away by the tsunami.

About 310,000 people have been evacuated to emergency shelters, many of them without power, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said radiation levels around the plant had now risen above permissible limits.

About 170,000 people have been evacuated from the area near the plant.

The BBC's Chris Hogg in Tokyo says a meltdown at reactor 3 would be potentially more serious than at the other reactors, because it is fuelled by plutonium and uranium, unlike the other units which carry only uranium.

Radiation Increases as Cooling Systems Fail

Could radioactive clouds reach the U.S.?

"If There Were a Reactor Meltdown or Major Leak at Fukushima, the Radioactive Cloud Would Likely be Blown Out...Towards the U.S. West Coast"

California is closely monitoring efforts to contain leaks from a quake-damaged Japanese nuclear plant, a spokesman said Saturday, as experts said radiation could be blown out across the Pacific.

Experts have suggested that, if there were a reactor meltdown or major leak at Fukushima, the radioactive cloud would likely be blown out east across the Pacific, towards the US West Coast.

"The wind direction for the time being seems to point the (nuclear) pollution towards the Pacific," said Andre-Claude Lacoste of the French Nuclear Safety Authority, briefing journalists in Paris on the Japanese crisis.

The winds could shift at any time, blowing radiation into Tokyo or other parts of Japan.

However, even if the prevailing winds remain off-shore - towards California and Washington - those American states are still a long way away. As AFP notes:

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