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Quake-hit Japan’s nuke crisis out of control
Published on 18 Mar. 2011 1:10 AM IST
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Japan’s government is acknowledging time is running out to prevent a hazardous and significant spread of radiation into the atmosphere from the crippled Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant. Of utmost concern is one of the facility’s damaged reactors (number 3) where water levels are believed to have fallen dangerously low in a pool where spent fuel rods are kept. The latest threat at the Fukushima plant was the fuel-rod pools, which contain used rods that have been withdrawn from reactors yet remain highly radioactive.
Meanwhile, official toll of the dead and missing from the twin disasters, now approached 15,000, police said, as aftershocks continued to rattle a jittery nation. The number of confirmed dead stood at 5457, with more than 80,000 buildings damaged and 4798 destroyed.
But as Japanese and international teams mounted a massive search and relief effort, reports from some battered coastal towns suggested the final death toll could be far higher. Millions of people have been left without water, electricity, fuel or enough food and hundreds of thousands more are homeless, the misery compounded by heavy snowfalls, freezing cold and wet conditions. Thick snow covered wreckage littering quake-hit areas, all but extinguishing hopes of finding anyone alive in the debris.
A cold snap brought heavy blizzards over the country’s northeast overnight, covering the tsunami-razed region in deep snow and vital highways in ice.
Air, ground assault
The situation at No. 4 reactor, where the fire broke out, was “not so good”, TEPCO added, while water was being poured into reactors No. 5 and 6, indicating the entire six-reactor facility was now at risk of overheating. “Getting water into the pools of the No.3 and No.4 reactors is a high priority,” Said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a senior official at Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Administration.
“It could become a serious problem in a few days,” he said. Japan’s military and police have launched an air and ground assault to pour water on two crippled nuclear reactor buildings which are emitting radiation. A pair of Self Defense Forces helicopters on Thursday began carrying out air drops on the nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture.
Reactor 3 is considered the most critical. It uses mixed oxide fuel containing plutonium. Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa, who gave the go-ahead Thursday for the helicopters to carry out the mission, acknowledges time is running out. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says every effort is being made to bring the situation under control.
Meanwhile, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Yukiya Amano, called the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant “very serious” Wednesday as he prepared to fly to Japan.
“The situation is very serious,” Amano, who is Japanese said of the damages at the core of reactors 1, 2 and 3.

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