Archive for Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Radiation threat in Japan prompts orders to stay indoors

March 15, 2011


— Radiation leaked from a crippled nuclear plant in tsunami-ravaged northeastern Japan after a third reactor was rocked by an explosion Tuesday and a fourth caught fire in a dramatic escalation of the 4-day-old catastrophe. The government warned anyone nearby to stay indoors to avoid exposure.

Tokyo also reported slightly elevated radiation levels but officials said the increase was too small to threaten anyone in the capital.

In a nationally televised statement, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said radiation has spread from four reactors of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Fukushima province, one of the hardest-hit in Friday’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake and the ensuing tsunami that has killed more than 10,000 people.

“The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out,” Kan said. “We are making utmost efforts to prevent further explosions and radiation leaks.”

This is the worst nuclear crisis Japan has faced since the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. It is also the first time that such a grave nuclear threat has been raised in the world since a nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine exploded in 1986.

Kan warned there are dangers of more leaks and told people living within 19 miles of the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to stay indoors to avoid radiation sickness. Some 70,000 people had already been evacuated from a 12-mile radius and 140,000 remain in the zone for which the new warning was issued.

Three reactors at the power plant were in critical condition after Friday’s quake, losing their ability to cool down and releasing some radiation. A fourth reactor that was unoperational caught fire today and more radiation was released, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

The fire was put out. Even though it was unoperational, the fourth reactor was believed to be the source of the elevated radiation release because of the hydrogen release that triggered the fire.

“It is likely that the level of radiation increased sharply due to a fire at Unit 4,” Edano said. “Now we are talking about levels that can damage human health. These are readings taken near the area where we believe the releases are happening. Far away, the levels should be lower,” he said.

“Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight. Don’t turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors,” he said.

“These are figures that potentially affect health. There is no mistake about that,” he said.

He said a reactor whose containment building caught fire Monday has not contributed greatly to the increased radiation. The radiation level around one of the reactors stood at 400,000 microsiverts per hour, four times higher than the safe level.

Officials said 50 workers were still there trying to put water into the reactors to cool them. They say 800 other staff were evacuated. The fires and explosions at the reactors have injured 15 workers and military personnel and exposed up to 190 people to elevated radiation.

In Tokyo, slightly higher-than-normal radiation levels were detected today but officials insisted there are no health dangers.

“The amount is extremely small, and it does not raise health concerns. It will not affect us,” Takayuki Fujiki, a Tokyo government official said.

The death toll from last week’s earthquake and tsunami jumped today as police confirmed the number killed had topped 2,400, though that grim news was overshadowed by a deepening nuclear crisis. Officials have said previously that at least 10,000 people may have died in Miyagi province alone.

Millions of people spent a fourth night with little food, water or heating in near-freezing temperatures as they dealt with the loss of homes and loved ones. Asia’s richest country hasn’t seen such hardship since World War II.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 4 years, 7 months ago

Nearly all emergency workers at these plants have been withdrawn. In other words, they've essentially conceded that they have absolutely no control over what will happen at these plants, and meltdowns are not out of the question. The worst case scenario is still quite possible-- Chernobyl on steroids.

kernal 4 years, 7 months ago

And then there are the fifty workers who volunteered and stayed.

Haiku_Cuckoo 4 years, 7 months ago

This situation is tragic all the way around. It doesn't surprise me that 50 people stayed behind to help extinguish the fires, if that's true. There seems to be an extraordinary amount of civility and decency among those affected by this situation. Notice that there are no reports of looters or stores quadrupling the price of bottled water.

jonas_opines 4 years, 7 months ago

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kernal 4 years, 7 months ago

A ton of salt?? Does that come with fries?

Richard Heckler 4 years, 7 months ago

No contemporary energy source is as environmentally irresponsible, imposes such a high liability on taxpayers, or is as dangerous as nuclear power.

Industry efforts to "greenwash" nuclear energy make a mockery of clean energy goals.

Although nuclear reactors do not emit carbon dioxide, promoting nuclear risks to reduce greenhouse emissions is the classic jump from the frying pan into the fire!

The Real Dirt on "Clean" Nuclear Energy

* The mining, milling and enrichment of uranium into nuclear fuel are extremely energy-intensive and result in the emission of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels.

* Estimated "energy recovery time" for a nuclear power plant is about 10 to 18 years, depending on the richness of uranium ores mined for fuel. This means that a nuclear power plant must operate for at least a decade before all the energy consumed to build and fuel the plant has been earned back and the power station begins to produce net energy. By comparison, wind power takes less than a year to yield net energy, and solar or photovoltaic power nets energy in less than three years.

* The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has calculated that collective radiation doses amounting to 12 cancer deaths can be expected for each 20-year term a reactor operates, as a result of radioactive emissions from the nuclear fuel cycle and routine reactor operations. This calculation assumes no unplanned accidents and does not consider radiation releases from high-level nuclear waste "disposal" activities. Nor are nonfatal health impacts related to radiation exposure counted in this tally.

* Thermal pollution from nuclear power plants adversely affects marine ecosystems. "Once-through" cooling systems in use at half the U.S. nuclear reactors discharge billions of gallons of water per day at temperatures up to 25 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the water into which it flows.

Flap Doodle 4 years, 7 months ago

Are you forgetting that attribution thing again, planet-killer merrill? Plagiarism is dumb and irresponsible!!!!!!!!

Richard Heckler 4 years, 6 months ago

The Japanese nuclear crisis worsens as Japanese authorities race to cool the overheating reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station.

Earlier today, Japan raised the nuclear alert level at the crippled plant from a four to a five, on par with Three Mile Island. This decision has shocked many nuclear experts.

“Our experts think that it’s a level 6.5 already, and it’s on the way to a seven, which was Chernobyl," says Philip White of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo.

We also speak with Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility about the long-term health effects from radiation exposure from Fukushima.

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