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The next best hope is to reconnect the plant to the grid with a new line power line. This attempt will occur within hours, says TEPCO.
Meanwhile radiation fears grow. The U.S. State Department is encouraging all Americans to leave Japan.
[Read a detailed timeline below.]
5:05 ET: Japan’s nuclear agency cannot confirm whether water is covering spent fuel rods at No. 4.
4:31 ET: Reuters: US urges citizens to flee Japan.
4:16 ET: According to Kyodo Wire, the government is set to hold more emergency meetings soon, followed by another Yukio Edano press conference.
4:11 ET 3/17: It’s all going to come down to this plan to reconnect the plant to the power grid. That’s expected “within hours.”
Get ready for another day of obsessively watching the headlines.
21:34 ET 3/16: Regulators in Japan are speaking nowon the situation. We’re covering LIVE.
The speaker gave a rundown of the situation at the 6 reactors.
The power plant will be re-hooked up to the grid soon, though even then it will be a while before everything’s working at full speed.
20:53 ET 3/16: IF you turn to NHK right now, you can watch helicopters dropping water on the plant right now.
20:41 ET 3/16: BREAKING Japan Nuclear Agency says nuke plant could be reconnected to power grid THIS afternoon.
20:38 ET 3/16: A couple flashes from Reuters. One is that TEPCO is preparing, again to inject more water. The other is that radiation levels are actually DECLINING around the reactor. So, all things considered, not horrible news.
20:25 ET 3/16: The Nikkei has opened. After its big rally on Wednesday, stocks are diving.
Meanwhile, Stars and Stripes has details on the Pentagon’s worst-case-scenario disaster preparation.
EARLIER 3/16: All of the water is gone from one of the spent fuel pools, says U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chief Gregory Jaczko. That means there’s nothing to stop the fuel rods from getting hotter and melting down, according to the AP.
Meanwhile TEPCO says it can’t confirm when a power line meant to ease the crisis will be completed. This contradicts an earlier report that said the powerline was nearly ready, which caused the market to shoot higher.
Japan’s Police Agency raised the quake death doll over 4,000, with more than 8,000 missing.
The Japanese Nuclear Agency will brief the press at 8PM ET, according to CNBC.
14:54 ET: The Japan electric company says that a new power line that will solve the nuclear crisis is nearly ready, according to the AP. That headline has seen markets rebound as a result.
The wire could help to bring electricty back to the complex, which could assist with the cooling of the reactors.
This follows disturbing comments from US authorities. Energy secretary Steven Chu says a reactor may have experienced “partial meltdown” and that the situation is worse than 3 Mile Island.
Also U.S. nuclear regulatory committee chief Gregory Jaczko said radiation levels are “extremely high.” Jackzko also believes reactor 4 has no water and has called for radius to be evacuated larger than that called for by Japanese officials.
The UK’s Foreign Office is now advising all British citizens in Tokyo, and north of Tokyo, to move away from the area, according to Sky.
The U.S. government is telling its citizens that live within 50 miles of Fukushima to remain indoors or evacuate, according to Reuters.
UPDATE 12:36: Now the EU Energy Commissioner responsible for the earlier catastrophe comment says he did not say a catastrophe was going to happen, rather that it was his fear.
IAEA has denied the situation is “out of control,” via CNBC.
UPDATE 11:55: Fuel rods in reactors 4, 5, and 6 are now exposed and four reactor units have core damage, according to the IAEA (via Bloomberg).
The EU energy minister responsible for the earlier comments claims he got his information from the EU, IAEA, Japan, and media reports.
UPDATE 11:01 Horrible headline crossing the wires via RanSquawk: EU ENERGY CHIEF SAYS POSSIBLE CATASTROPHIC EVENT IN NEXT HOURS.
He’s also — and this is via Dow Jones — calling the situation “out of control”
The market briefly got hammered by this but has already recovered.
Update 9:16: DigitalGlobe has a great before-after image of the explosions at the reactors.
Update 6:51 AM: A depressing read here from the New York Times sizing up the situation.
Update 5:51: And now according to Kyodo Wire, there are concerns at #5 and #6.
Update 5:03 AM: According to broadcaster NHK, Japan’s defence Forces have aborted its latest plans to spray water on reactor #3.
Evidently it was deemed too dangerous, due to radiation. Plans are being drawn up for a ground attack on the nuke plant — i.e., water canons, which are not reassuring.
This year marks Chernobyl’s 25th anniversary, and how ironic it is that the world has a new nuclear emergency on its hands: Japan’s Fukushima power plant, operated by TEPCO. The situation at Fukushima continues to worsen, with explosions at two more reactors and the radiation released surpassing that of Three Mile Island. The 40-year-old reactors, designed by General Electric, were due for decommissioning at the end of this month.
The Fukushima nuclear incident will likely be upgraded from a level 4 to a 5 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. The scale runs from 0 to 7—the most severe. The incident will remain “an event with local consequences,” although this excludes the consequences for the expansion of nuclear power generation around the world. Three Mile Island was a level 5; Chernobyl was a level 7—the only level 7 event so far.
Regarding Three Mile Island…
In 1979, Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island (TMI) power plant experienced a cascade of events more similar to those of Fukushima. TMI was a pressurised water reactor; Fukushima was a boiling water reactor. There’s little difference between the two insofar as both used water to cool and regulate the reactors, except that TMI had a pressurizer. Like Fukushima, Three Mile Island Unit 2 (TMI-2) was vented into the air to reduce pressure in the core, releasing some fissile products (Cesium-137 and Iodine-131—the same products released from Fukushima). TMI-2 also experienced a small hydrogen explosion, which tore off the exterior walls of the containment building, and a partial core meltdown. Cleanup cost US$975 million and took 14 years to complete.
Update 3:53 ET AM ET: NHK has released pictures showing again just how badly damaged reactors #3 and #4 are.
There’s also talk of another possible radiation leak at reactor #2 due to a collapse in pressure.
Update 1:25 am EST March 16: Tokyo Electric Power Co. just released this photo of reactors #4 (centre) and #3 (left) at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant taken the day before. (Photo: TEPCO via Yomiuri)
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said that the most recent spike in radiation may stem from a damaged containment vessel in reactor No. 3, where rising smoke or steam was also observed on Wednesday. (via Marketwatch and CNN)
Photo: TEPCO via Yomiuri
Around the same time when a fire broke out in reactor #4 yesterday, there was another explosion in reactor #2 that ruptured a containment vessel. Both almost simultaneous incidents (along with the smoke from reactor #3 on Wednesday) caused the surge in radiation, which forced the Japanese government to evacuate the workers.Update 11:39 pm EST: Japan has evacuated most workers and suspended temporarily efforts to prevent the Fukushima nuclear plant from melting down after increasing radiation levels became too dangerous for workers to remain at the facility, AP reports.
About 50 technicians are the only people who currently remain at Fukushima.
Update 6:46: The plan to use helicopters to pour water into one of the reactors that’s emitting radiation has been scrapped.
A Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman said the “helicopters were deemed impractical, but that other options were under consideration, including fire engines,” according to AP.
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