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article imageJapanese rush to avert meltdown at nuclear reactor

By Kim I. Hartman     Mar 13, 2011 in World
Tokyo - Officials announced a third nuclear reactor at the crippled Fukushima power plant had lost its cooling system and they are unable to bring the core temperature down to a safe level. Government authorities fear a catastrophic meltdown has occurred.
CNN reports "a meltdown may have occurred in at least one nuclear power reactor in Japan, the country's chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said Sunday, adding that authorities are concerned about the possibility of another meltdown at a second reactor."
"We do believe that there is a possibility that meltdown has occurred. It is inside the reactor. We can't see. However, we are assuming that a meltdown has occurred," Edano told CNN about the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility.
"Because it's inside the reactor, we cannot directly check it, but we are taking measures on the assumption of the possible partial meltdown," Edano said, reports the Washington Post.
Tokyo Electric Power Company "notified the government early Sunday morning that the No. 3 reactor at the No. 1 Fukushima plant had lost the ability to cool the reactor core. The reactor is now in the process of releasing radioactive steam, said Yukio Edano, according to Kyodo News. "It was the sixth reactor overall at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants to undergo cooling failure" since the devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake leveled the country and the resulting tsunami flooded populated coastal areas of Japan.
NHK World reports "On Saturday, the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said 2 radioactive substances, cesium and iodine, had been detected near the Number One reactor at the Number One power plant. This indicates nuclear fission of uranium fuel. The agency announced some fuel in the reactor had partially melted."
The number of patients affected by radioactive contamination has risen at a hospital near the nuclear facility from three early today to fifteen. Hospital officials have at least 75 other patients to test as well as hospital employee's who it is feared have all suffered contamination. "Federal safety agency officials said that as many as 160 people had been exposed to radiation from the plants," according to the Washington Post.
NHK World reported on the reactors:
"At the Fukushima Number One Power Plant, both the number one reactor, and the number two reactor's emergency generators broke down, making it difficult to pump water into the reactors. That allowed temperatures in the reactors to rise.
Pressure inside the containment vessel of the reactors also remains higher than normal.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, the plants' operator, tried to restore de-pressurizing equipment using a mobile generator. But the plan failed as the equipment had already been damaged by tsunami waves.
At the Number Two Plant, cooling water temperatures in its 3 reactors remain at 100 degrees Celsius--more than 3-times higher than the normal operating temperature. The utility is considering other options to restore the failed cooling systems."
The Fukushima prefectural government has reported "the contamination of at least a few employee's at the No. 1 nuclear plant who were exposed to radioactive material as they fled critical areas of the nuclear plant."
The continuing disaster has raised fears over radioactive leaks and the possibilities of a meltdown occurring in more then one nuclear reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi facility. AOL News explains "a meltdown refers to a very serious collapse of a power plant's systems and its ability to manage temperatures. A complete meltdown of the reactor core and containment building would release uranium and dangerous byproducts into the environment that can pose serious health risks."
Japanese citizens and observers around the world are concerned about the conflicting information being released by government officials. Japan's Ambassador to the United States, Ichior Fujisaki, said, "We are getting information every hour on this issue," reports CNN. "But Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano, raised another possible issue. Some of the readings in the measurement equipment were not accurate, he said without elaboration."
Although the possible meltdown at one or more nuclear reactors has not been confirmed by Japanese government officials all indicators are pointing that way.
"Ken Bergeron, a physicist and former scientist at Sandia National Laboratories," told CNN, "Now we have to hope that the containment building will succeed in preventing major amounts of radioactivity" from escaping."
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