Japan's Nuclear Crisis: 2 Weeks After the Mega-Quake & Tsunami

japan fukushima 1 satellite photo

Photo: DigitalGlobe, CC
Cooling Not Yet Fully Restored
Today marks the second week since the mega-quake and tsunami that devastated a large part of Japan. The official death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is now 10,000, with 17,500 others still listed as "missing". Our hearts go to all of the victims' loved ones. Meanwhile, today also marks the second week of the nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi. Read on for more details on what happened during the past day.
nuke japan BWR Mark I containment sketch image

DW = drywell, WW = wetwell, SF = spent fuel. Photo: Public domain.

"High-level radiation" suspected to be leaking from reactor #3 was detected in water at the turbine building attached to unit #3, according to Kyodo News. At first, it was announced that the reactor vessel might be cracked, but Japanese authorities now say that there's no data - such as a change in pressure levels - that indicates that this is the case, and that the leak could be coming from somewhere else. The problem remains that it's not clear where those radioactive materials are from, and until more data is gathered details are released, there's a chance that the integrity of the reactor vessel isn't as good as we thought. Radioactive water was also found in the turbine buildings connected to units #1 and #2.

The three hospitalized workers that we mentioned yesterday were transferred to Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba Prefecture. Two of them have potential radiation burns on their feet, according to TEPCO.

japan nuclear reactor power meltdown earthquake photo

Credit Image: © Koichi Kamoshida/Jana Press/Zuma Press/Corbis

The Japanese authorities have started to quietly evacuate residents in a wider radius than the original evacuation orders, according to the New York Times. People leaving between 12 and 19 miles from the Fukushima plant have been encouraged to evacuate voluntarily. The U.S. has recommended a 50-mile evacuation radius to its citizens.

The level of radiation found in Tokyo's water supply dropped for a second day to 51 becquerels. That level is very low and no danger to human health, including infants, but it should still be monitored to make sure that it stays below limits.

Despite the partial halt of restoration work due to the technicians' radiation exposure, TEPCO on Friday began injecting freshwater into the No. 1 reactor core, as it prepares to inject freshwater into all the troubled three reactor cores and four spent fuel pools, instead of seawater currently used.

As a step to bring the reactors under control, authorities are eager to replace seawater with fresh water in cooling the reactor cores and the pools, as crystallized salt could form a crust on the fuel rods and prevent smooth water circulation, thus diminishing the cooling effect. (source)

Previous Updates on Japan's Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima
-March 14: Mini-FAQ About Japan's Nuclear Power Plant Crisis
-March 15: 6 Important Questions About the Crisis at Japanese Nuclear Power Plants
-March 16: Update on Japan's Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima I
-March 17: Ongoing Crisis at Japan's Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant
-March 18: Japan's Nuclear Crisis, One Week Later
-March 21: Limited Progress Cooling Fukushima's Nuclear Reactors
-March 22: Light at the End of the Tunnel for Japan's Nuclear Crisis?
-March 23: Japan Nuclear Crisis: External Power Reconnected at Fukushima 1
-March 24: Japan Nuclear Crisis: Slow Progress with Emergency Cooling Systems
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