Japan scrambles to pull nuclear plant back from brink of disaster | Pakistan Today

Japan scrambles to pull nuclear plant back from brink of disaster

TOKYO – Japan’s nuclear crisis appeared to be spinning out of control on Wednesday after workers withdrew briefly from a stricken power plant because of surging radiation levels and a helicopter failed to drop water on the most troubled reactor. In a sign of desperation, the police will try to cool spent nuclear fuel at one of the facility’s reactors with water cannon, which is normally used to quell riots.
Early in the day another fire broke out at the earthquake-crippled facility, which has sent low levels of radiation wafting into Tokyo in the past 24 hours, triggering fear in the capital and international alarm. Japan’s government said radiation levels outside the plant’s gates were stable but, in a sign of being overwhelmed, appealed to private companies to help deliver supplies to tens of thousands of people evacuated from around the complex.
“People would not be in immediate danger if they went outside with these levels. I want people to understand this,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a televised news conference, referring to people living outside a 30 km (18 miles) exclusion zone. Some 140,000 people inside the zone have been told to stay indoors. Workers were trying to clear debris to build a road so fire trucks could reach reactor No 4 at the Daiichi complex in Fukushima, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo. Flames were no longer visible at the building housing the reactor.
High radiation levels prevented a helicopter from flying to the site to drop water into the No. 3 reactor — whose roof was damaged by an earlier explosion and where steam was seen rising earlier in the day — to try to cool its fuel rods. The plant operator described No 3 as the “priority”. No more information was available, but that reactor is the only one at Daiichi which uses plutonium in its fuel mix. According to US government research, plutonium is very toxic to humans and once absorbed in the bloodstream can linger for years in bone marrow or liver and can lead to cancer.
The situation at No. 4 reactor, where the fire broke out, was “not so good”, the plant operator added, while water was being poured into reactors No 5 and 6, indicating the entire six-reactor facility was now at risk of overheating. Nuclear experts said the solutions being proposed to quell radiation leaks at the complex were last-ditch efforts to stem what could well be remembered as one of the world’s worst industrial disasters.
“This is a slow-moving nightmare,” said Dr Thomas Neff, a physicist and uranium-industry analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Japanese Emperor Akihito, delivering a rare video message to his people, said he was deeply worried by the country’s nuclear crisis which was unprecedented in scale. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times,” the emperor said.
Panic over the economic impact of last Friday’s massive earthquake and tsunami knocked $620 billion off Japan’s stock market over the first two days of this week, but the Nikkei index rebounded on Wednesday to end up 5.68 percent.



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