Japan: Second blast at nuclear power plant and reports of cooling breakdown at a third nuclear reactor (News Brief)
(video courtesy of euronews)
(HN, March 14, 2011) -- On Monday a new explosion hit Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, two days after an explosion at different reactor housing unit at the power plant. Cooling systems have also failed at a third reactor as a result of Friday’s earthquake and tsunami that knocked out electricity to much of the region, Japanese officials said.
Japan Today reported that according to plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. 11 people were injured in the blast, which authorities speculate to by a hudrogen explosion which caused the roof and walls of the building to blow away.
Today’s explosion has increased concern about a possible release of radiation. However, Japan's nuclear safety agency has said there is "absolutely no possibility of a Chernobyl" style accident at the Fukushima I plant, according to the national strategy minister, reports The Daily Telegraph. While the explosions blew the roof off each of the reactor containment buildings, officials said the reactors themselves remained intact.
Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary of the Japanese government, said it was unlikely that a total meltdown would occur in any of the troubled reactors, as none of them were near that point on Monday.
Edano's viewpoint was shared by experts who say the danger of a meltdown is decreasing day by day.
"We're now into the fourth day. Whatever is happening in that core is taking a long time to unfold," said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the nuclear policy program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They've succeeded in prolonging the timeline of the accident sequence."
There is a general consensus that there is little risk of a Chernobyl-type disaster in Japan, because the Japanese reactors have a containment shell that the doomed Russian reactor did not.
"The likelihood there will be a huge fire like at Chornobyl or a major environmental release like at Chernobyl, I think that's basically impossible," said James F. Stubbins, a nuclear energy professor at the University of Illinois.
"Everything I've seen says that the containment structure is operating as it's designed to operate. It's keeping the radiation in and it's holding everything in, which is the good news," Murray Jennex, of San Diego State University, told the Telegraph.
Since the Fukushima I plant’s cooling systems were shut down by Friday’s earthquake, Japan has been trying to control both overheating reactors with sea water – rendering them useless for future use. Sea water was also channeled into No. 2 reactor today, where the cooling system was shut down.
Radiation levels have measured above normal around the plant as a result authorities have evacuated approximately 210,000 residents within a 13 mile radius, raising fears of contamination to the surrounding area.