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article imageFukushima power plant explodes, 4 workers injured

By Adeline Yuboco     Mar 12, 2011 in World
Tokyo - White smoke was seen at Tokyo Electric Power's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following an explosion heard on Saturday. This is one of the two power plants that were placed under a state of emergency by the Japanese government.
The explosion was heard following a series of aftershocks were felt in the area, and was reported to have been heard at 5:08 pm local time. As of this posting time, it is unclear whether the explosion was a direct result of the aftershocks that occurred in the area. No information has also been released as to whether the said building that exploded housed one of the nuclear reactors.
An hour before the explosion, CNN News reported that a small amount of radioactive Cesium managed to escape into the air surrounding the said nuclear power plant. According to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Agency spokesman Yuji Kakizaki, the leak was most likely caused by the melting of one of the fuel rods that the plant engineers were trying to cool down.
Four workers at the power plant were injured as a result of the explosion, according to the Canadian Business.
Earlier, the Japanese government had declared a state of emergency at two nuclear power plants after they lost their cooling ability after electricity to the sites was cut off by the 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked the northeastern part of Japan Friday afternoon. The plants' emergency generators were also disabled by the massive tsunami that followed.
Thousands of people living within the area of the power plants were evacuated as worked struggled to stabilize the nuclear reactors to prevent a nuclear meltdown.
According to Naoto Sekimura—a professor at the University of Tokyo—the recent developments at the Fukushima power plants are very small and would not become a repeat of the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in 1986. He explains that this is because the Fukushima power plant contains a light water reactor as compared to the one in Chernobyl, which was a moderated pressure tube type reactor.
"No Chernobyl is possible at a light water reactor," he said. "Loss of coolant means a temperature rise, but it also will stop the reaction."
Steve Kerekes, spokesman for the Nuclear Energy Institute in the US, agrees, stating that while this is a serious situation, the likelihood that the power plants at Fukushima will experience a nuclear meltdown is highly unlikely.
"Even if it occurred, [it] would not necessarily pose a threat to public health and safety," he adds.
In an interview with MSNBC News, Edwin Lyman—a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is a group that opposes the use of nuclear energy—says that the power plants are a catastrophe waiting to happen.
"If the fuel starts to get damaged, eventually it will melt through the reactor vessel and drop to the floor of the containment building," he points out. "[This raises] the odds that highly radioactive materials could be released into the environment."
More about Nuclear power plant, Explosion, japan earthquake, Tsunami, Tokyo Electric Power
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