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article imageCountdown to meltdown at Japanese nuclear power plant?

By Kim I. Hartman     Mar 12, 2011 in World
Tokyo - Government officials have declared a state of emergency at two Japanese power plants amid cooling system failures that have caused pressure build-up in the nuclear reactors following the devastating aftermath of the Friday's earthquake and tsunami.
"Atomic material has seeped out of one of the Fukushima Daiichi plant's five nuclear reactors, about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo, causing potentially dangerous problems in cooling radioactive material, said Kazuo Kodama, a spokesman for Japan's nuclear regulatory agency," reports CNN.
Thousands of residents were ordered to evacuate an expanded 10 kilometer radius area around the power plant, sparking fears of a potentially catastrophic radioactive event resulting from the heat-induced pressure built up inside the crippled reactor," reports ABC News.
Operators are working furiously at the plant in an effort to reduce the rising temperature and pressure within the reactor's core before a meltdown occurs, following the most powerful earthquake in Japanese history.
"Radiation levels inside the Japanese nuclear power plant have surged to 1,000 times their normal levels," reported KGO News Talk Radio.
KGO reports that "scientists said that even though the reactor had stopped producing energy, its fuel continues to generate heat and needs steady levels of coolant to prevent it from overheating and triggering a dangerous cascade of events."
CNN reports "the Fukushima Daini power plant in northeastern Japan, has also been added to the nuclear emergency list of critical situations." New reports said the "cooling system had failed at the Daini plant where three of the four such units did not appear to be functioning. Temperatures in reactors at Daini soared to hotter than 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit), an indication that the cooling system wasn't working properly. Authorities ordered residents within 3 kilometers of that facility to evacuate as a precaution."
Japanese officials say they are preparing for the worse possible scenario including a nuclear meltdown if they fail to cool the reactors. At this time, without any power, they're unable to pump water to the core to reduce the rising temperatures and get coolant to the reactors.
"High-pressure pumps are being brought in to help temporarily cool the reactors", according to Arnold Gundersen, a nuclear engineer." He said, "If the reactor temperature keeps rising and reaches around 4,000 degrees, the fuel could melt outright, and the reactor could slump right into the bottom of the containment building in a partial meltdown. Then the crucial question would be whether the building would stay intact," according to AOL News.
"The last line of defense is that containment - and that's got to hold," Gundersen told AOL. "If it doesn't, the radioactive load inside the reactor can pour out into the surroundings."
More about Fukushima Daiichi, Nuclear power plant, Earthquake disaster, Tsunami, Nuclear reactor
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