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article imageNuclear crisis in Japan now on ‘maximum alert’

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 29, 2011 in Environment
Tokyo - Japan’s ongoing nuclear disaster has led the government to issue a “maximum alert” warning. Authorities continue efforts to regain control of the faltering reactor facility.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has informed Japan’s parliament that unfolding events since the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11 has thrown the country into its worst crises in decades, stating: “This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan,” according to the Associated Press.
Kan added: “We will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert.”
The nuclear disaster continues to worsen by the day, including latest reports showing two workers were drenched in radioactive water, despite wearing what were believed to be waterproof suits.
Chief Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano, with a noticeable change to the tone of message delivery, said: "Our preparedness was not sufficient. When the current crisis is over, we must examine the accident closely and thoroughly review” the safety standards, Huffington Post reports.
As the Daiichi disaster continues unfolding, increased criticism is being leveled at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), operator of the Daiichi facility. An investigation by the Associated Press has found TEPCO dismissed scientific data and geological history revealing a massive earthquake, and a subsequent tsunai, was more likely than they believed.
TEPCO continues pouring water into the No. 3 reactor, according to a Tuesday news release, but highly toxic plutonium is the latest contaminant discovered in soil near the plant.
Radiation contamination is now found in vegetables, raw milk, and tap water from as far away as Tokyo. Very low levels of radiation have also been reported in Iceland, Scotland and Switzerland.
Officials in Japan continue to insist the radiation amounts are not a risk to humans, but the plutonium discovery lends credence to suspicions of highly radioactive water is being emitted from damaged nuclear fuel rods.
“The situation is very grave,” Edano added, according to HuffPo.
On Tuesday, two workers were doused to their underwear by radioactive water coming from a pipe at the No. 3 reactor, after wearing supposedly waterproof suits designed to protect against high levels of radiation.
Latest reports show the amount of water being used in attempts to cool the No. 2 reactor core may be exceeding the capacity to remove leaked radioactive water. The leaked radioactive water could be linked to the massive amounts of water poured into spent fuel pools and reactors to prevent overheating.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said at a news conference: “While we don't know exactly the relationship between the need to inject water to cool (the reactor core) and the outflow of water, we have reduced the amount of injected water to a minimum given the reactor No. 2's tendency to spew highly radioactive water,” according to Kyodo News. The No. 2 reactor vessel’s temperature rose to 160.5C as of 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Kan is facing increasing criticism from opposition leaders over the ongoing nuclear disaster. “We cannot let you handle the crisis,” said lawmaker Yosuke Isozaki in Parliament, HuffPo reports. “We cannot let you be in charge of Japan’s crisis management.” But his supporters believe he is doing a satisfying job.
More about japan nuclear crisis, japan earthquake, japan tsunami, daiichi nuclear facility, Prime Minister Naoto Kan
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