Second blast at stricken Fukushima reactor

A second explosion was reported at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant early on March 14. The blast apparently came after technicians flooded the overheating reactor Number 1 with seawater in a desperate attempt to bring down dangerous temperatures. Authorities are again saying the steel containment structure was not breached. Like the first blast of March 12, the new incident is said to be a hydrogen explosion. Six people are reported missing in the wake of the blast. CTV reports that power company TEPCO said radiation levels at the plant are 10.65 micro-sieverts—significantly below the limit of 500 micro-sieverts at which a nuclear operator is legally required to file a report to the government. This appears to conflict with news reports yesterday that radiation levels were in excess of 1,015 micro-sieverts per hour. The Los Angeles Times reports that radiation levels had risen above the legal limit before the blast, which is what prompted the attempt to flood the reactor.

CTV also reports that the March 14 blast was at reactor Number 3, contradicting other reports that it was Number 1 which had exploded again. Reactor Number 2 is also said to be dangerously overheated. In any case, it seems clear that three reactors at the facility are now out of control, and have probably experienced at least partial meltdowns.

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  1. Four reactors now in peril
    Authorities have now declared a level 1 alert (with level 7 being the most severe) at the Onagawa plant, near Ishinomaki in Miyagi Prefecture, where radiation is said to be at 700 times permissible levels. There is some confusion as to whether this is from the Onagawa plant itself, or fallout from the Fukushima plant to the south. The IAEA has said that the three reactor units at Onagawa station were “under control.”

    The cooling system at another plant, Tokai 2, south of Fukushima, is also reported to have failed—bringing to four the number of power stations at which there have been significant cooling failures. (The Journal, Ireland, March 13)