[Guest post by Aaron Worthing; if you have tips, please send them here. Or by Twitter @AaronWorthing.]
Watching events from afar, the Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Meltdown trifecta in Japan really strikes me as like a natural disaster version of 9-11. In the immediate aftermath it was horror in slow motion, but then even after you thought things should have been over, it turns out it wasn’t. I remember an international friend being shocked when I mentioned in an email some three months later that they were still pulling bodies out of the rubble at the World Trade Center. And some two weeks later, things are still pretty bad in Fukushima, Japan:
Japanese officials on Friday began quietly encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a sign that they hold little hope that the crippled facility will soon be brought under control.
The authorities said they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the crippled plant and said they were now encouraging “voluntary evacuation” from the area. Those people had been advised March 15 to remain indoors, while those within a 12-mile radius of the plant had been ordered to evacuate.
The United States has recommended that its citizens stay at least 50 miles away from the plant.
Speaking to a national audience in a press conference Friday night to mark the two weeks since the magnitude 9.0 quake and the devastating tsunami that followed it, Prime Minister Naoto Kan dodged a reporter’s question about whether the government was ordering a full evacuation, saying officials were simply following the recommendation of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission.In the latest setback to the effort to contain the nuclear crisis, evidence emerged that the reactor vessel of the No. 3 unit may have been damaged, an official said Friday. The development, described at a news conference by Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, raises the possibility that radiation from the mox fuel in the reactor — a combination of uranium and plutonium — could be released.
One sign that a breach may have occurred in the reactor vessel, Mr. Nishiyama said, took place on Thursday when three workers who were trying to connect an electrical cable to a pump in a turbine building next to the reactor were injured when they stepped into water that was found to be significantly more radioactive than normal in a reactor.
[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]