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Japan: Nuke alert level high, Personnel working at N-plant dubbed as “suicide squad”
Published on 19 Mar. 2011 1:10 AM IST
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Fire trucks sprayed jets of water on the overheating Fukushima nuclear power plant Friday as Japan’s nuclear safety agency raised the crisis rating to level 5, defining it as an “accident with wider consequences”. IAEA chief called it an “extremely serious” crisis.
Six army vehicles drove up to the stricken nuclear plant that was extensively damaged in the March 11 earthquake that spawned a massive tsunami after dumping sea water from helicopters failed to have the desired effect. The vehicles sprayed 50 tonnes of water on the fuel storage pool at reactor No.3, after which steam was seen rising from the damaged building, an indication that the water was reaching the overheating fuel rods, DPA reported citing state broadcaster NHK.
In a message sent to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency Friday upgraded the rating of events at the plant to level 5 on the international 7-step scale, defining it as an “accident with wider consequences”.
The previous rating submitted to the IAEA was level 4 - an “accident with local consequences”.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said hourly radiation at No.1 reactor stood at 279.4 microsievert at 5 a.m. Friday, down from 309 microsievert at the beginning of the crisis and 292 microsievert around the time when helicopters poured water Thursday.
There has been global concern over the crisis at the Fukushima plant, where explosions have taken place at three reactors while a fire engulfed a fourth one.
The storage pools at the power plant lost their cooling function after the quake.
As the crisis deepened, IAEA chief Yukiya Amano arrived in Japan and met Prime Minister Naoto Kan Friday to discuss the issue.
Amano Friday urged Japan to provide more information on its “extremely serious” crisis, as the battle to regain control of a failing power plant in northern Japan enters a second week.
The UN nuclear watchdog chief said that the central government needs to make its information regarding the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, 240 km north of Tokyo, more readily available to them and the broader international community, Xinhua reported.
Personnel attempting to cool down Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have been dubbed a “suicide squad”, their families accepting their fate like a death sentence.
The Sankei Shimbun newspaper called the police team “Kesshitai” - meaning a “unit that expects to die”, according to Britain’s The Independent.
Experts have been working round the clock to cool the reactors and giant helicopters have been used to dump water over them. Twenty people have been confirmed to have suffered from radiation exposure. A worker’s daughter told The Sun: “My father says he has accepted his fate much like a death sentence.”
There are about 180 personnel working round the clock to cool the plant. Working in rotating teams of 50, they enter the radiation hotspots for only 15 minutes at a time to limit their exposure.
The new line could enable pumps to send water to the reactors and pools to keep them cool.

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