It has been five day since the 8.9 earthquake rocked Japan. The earthquake and the ensuing tsunami have caused more than 10,000 reported deaths, damaged the leading economy of Asia, and most dangerously caused partial meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The power complex along the Northeast of Japan faced the brunt of both the earthquake and the tsunami. The cooling functions on the reactors malfunctioned. The backup plan at nuclear stations is to cool the reactors with sea water. The problem was that the vents to let out the steam, caused by the cool water hitting the hot reactor, had stopped working properly. Over the weekend the efforts of the Japanese workers, who were still at the complex, were able to get the vents working and inject sea water into the containment areas.
However early Tuesday morning the second reactor, on which water injection efforts had temporarily failed on Monday, exploded. The explosion is the third of its kind at the complex. Explosions at the first and third reactors damaged the buildings in which they are housed, but did not lead to any damages to the steel containment fields which keep radiation from being released into the atmosphere. However the Tuesday explosions may have damaged the steel containment field on the second reactor.
A nuclear meltdown – which results from the overheating and deformation of the fuel cells where the nuclear reactions take place – is already presumed all of the reactors. With the damage to the steel containment around the reactor radiation levels could severely rise in the surrounding areas and throughout the country.
Almost everyone within a 12 mile radius of the complex has been evacuated, a total of around 70,000 people, and those unable to have been told to stay in doors to avoid exposure to radiation. Levels of radiation have been reported ‘above normal’ in Tokyo, but the government insists that these are not high enough to cause health risks and that the rise is only minor.
In response the Japanese have formally requested the assistance of other countries. The United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission has sent two of its experts on boiling water reactors to Japan to provide technical assistance. In the meantime the 72 Japanese workers who remain at the plant are trying everything to stop further explosions and to cool the reactors in an attempt to avoid a full meltdown on any of the three reactors.
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