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article imageJapanese workers abandon crippled nuclear plant

By Kim I. Hartman     Mar 16, 2011 in World
Japanese officials have suspended operations at the failing nuclear plant Fukushima Daiichi and abandoned efforts to prevent the crippled reactors from melting down, after a surge in radiation made it too dangerous for workers to remain at the facility.
"Workers were ordered to withdraw from the stricken Japanese nuclear power plant on Wednesday after radiation levels rose, a development that suggested the crisis was spiraling out of control," according to Reuters.
Japan's Kyodo News has reported "the container of the No.3 reactor of the quake-hit Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant is feared to have been damaged and may have leaked radioactive steam Wednesday, emitting high-level radiation, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano says "the level of radiation around the quake-damaged Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant is high enough to affect human health," reports NHK World. A shift in wind has officials concerned for populated areas in the region.
Edano said at these unsafe levels workers could not carry out even minimal tasks. Government authorities have increased the evacuation area and are now warning people within 30 kilometers to evacuate or stay inside, according to CNN Television.
The Associated Press reported:
Japan's nuclear safety agency estimated that 70 percent of the rods have been damaged at the No. 1 reactor.
Japan's national news agency, Kyodo, said that 33 percent of the fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor were damaged and that the cores of both reactors were believed to have partially melted.
"We don't know the nature of the damage," said Minoru Ohgoda, spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA. "It could be either melting, or there might be some holes in them."
Edano said Tuesday, "that he could not rule out the possibility of a meltdown at all three troubled reactors at the plant."
"A meltdown occurs when nuclear fuel rods cannot be cooled and melt the steel and concrete structure containing them. In the worst-case scenario, the fuel can spill out of the containment unit and spread radioactivity through the air and water. Which can cause both immediate and long-term health problems, including radiation poisoning and cancer," according to CNN.
If fuel rods inside the reactors are melting, "the million-dollar question is whether that melting will be contained," said James Walsh, a CNN contributor and research associate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's security studies program
"The nuclear crisis has triggered international alarm and partly overshadowed the human tragedy caused by Friday's earthquake and tsunami, which pulverized Japan's northeastern coastline, killing an estimated 10,000 people and severely damaging the nuclear plant," according to the Associated Press.
Japanese broadcasting company NHK has reported, "The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission reports the United States is sending eight more nuclear exerts to join the two already in the country. This is response to a request from the Japanese government for help in dealing with the crisis at the nuclear power plant in quake-hit Fukushima prefecture. They are expected to arrive Wednesday and provide support and opinion on how to halt the nuclear reactors safely, as well as on the effects that leaked radiation will have on humans and on the environment."
More about Fukushima Daiichi, Nuclear power plant, japan evacuates workers, nuclear meltdown, Nuclear regulatory commission