March 14, 2011
Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has experienced a second explosion. Early Monday, Japan’s chief cabinet secretary said a “hydrogen explosion” occurred at the facility’s Unit 3.
The explosion was similar to an earlier one at a different unit at the facility, according to news reports. Three workers were injured and seven are missing. Hydrogen is used as a high-performance gaseous coolant at power plants.
On Saturday, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the first explosion could only have been caused by a meltdown of the reactor core, according to the Japanese daily Nikkei.
On Sunday, Japanese officials ordered the evaculation of more than 200,000 people and handed out iodine, used to protect the thyroid from radioactivity.
Journalists felt Monday’s explosion 25 miles away. Initial reports by Japanese media said radiation had spread over the entire area, although they later said the reactor did not explode and that radiation levels were in fact going down.
Officials continue to insist the two breached containment vessels and the exposure of the nuclear core at the plant do not pose a risk to the public. Yukio Edano said the reactor’s inner containment vessel holding the nuclear fuel rods was intact and not a threat to the public or the environment.
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
Regardless of the government’s assurance, people within a 12-mile radius were ordered to stay inside homes following the blast.
Operators dumped seawater into the two reactors in a last-ditch attempt to cool their super-heated containers, an obvious sign of desperation.
Dr. David Brenner, the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University in New York City, said the situation in Japan is looking “more like Three Mile Island than Chernobyl.”
The Three Mile Island accident was a partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania in 1979.
Meanwhile, a former nuclear power plant designer, Masashi Goto, told a news conference in Tokyo that one of the reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant was “highly unstable,” and that if there was a meltdown the “consequences would be tremendous.”
Goto accused the government of deliberately withholding vital information that would allow outside experts help solve the problems. “For example, there has not been enough information about the hydrogen being vented. We don’t know how much was vented and how radioactive it was.”
Japan has declared a state of emergency at at second nuclear power plant. Japanese authorities told the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that the lowest state of emergency has been reported by the operator at the Onagawa nuclear power plant.