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*UPDATE* China Syndrome in Japan? Nuclear Power Plant to Release Radioactive Steam at Two Reactors
2 quake-hit power plants to release pressure
TOKYO, March 12, Kyodo
Radiation rose to an unusually high level in and near Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Saturday following a magnitude 8.8 earthquake that hit northern Japan the previous day, the nuclear safety agency said.
But the agency denied the radiation amount will pose an immediate threat to the health of nearby residents.
Given the adjacent No. 2 plant also has quake-triggered malfunctions, the operator of the two plants in Fukushima Prefecture is set to release pressure in containers housing reactors under an unprecedented government order aimed to ensure the plant's safety, an action that could lead to the release of radioactive substances.
The amount of radiation reached around 1,000 times the normal level in the control room of the No. 1 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said. The discovery suggests radioactive steam could spread around the facility.
The agency also said radiation has been measured at more than eight times the normal level near the main gate of the plant.
The authorities expanded the evacuation area for residents in the vicinity of the plant from a 3-kilometer radius to 10 km on the orders of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who visited the facility.
source Kyodo News Japan
Japan is issuing an evacuation order to thousands of residents near a nuclear power plant.
Japan's nuclear safety agency says the evacuation order to more than 2,800 people followed the government's emergency declaration at a nuclear power plant after its cooling system failed following a massive earthquake Friday.
The agency says plant workers are currently scrambling to restore cooling water supply at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant. There was no prospect for an immediate success.
The plant experienced a mechanical failure in the backup power generation system to supply water needed to cool the reactor. The reactor core remains hot even after a shutdown.
Although Japanese official state this is only a precautionary measure, Greenpeace expert Jan Beranek told Deutsche Welle, "If you shut down a reactor there is still a lot of heat in the fuel and this requires several hours of active cooling...You need lots of water to take the heat out of the reactor. This is the critical moment because if you do not manage the flow of water the residual heat in the reactor's fuel can be big enough to cause melting and potentially damage the reactor."
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