There has been an explosion at a Japanese nuclear facility where, following Friday’s devastating 8.9 magnitude earthquake and resulting Tsunami, officials have been working to remedy a malfunctioning cooling system, multiple sources report.
Public broadcaster NHK reported that a blast had been heard at around 3:00pm local time at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, 150 miles north of Tokyo, and showed footage of smoke or possibly steam eddying from the site. It appears one of the affected buildings has collapsed. Several people are known to have been injured.
A massive explosion has struck a Japanese nuclear power plant after Friday’s devastating earthquake.
A huge pall of smoke was seen coming from the plant at Fukushima and several workers were injured.
Japanese officials fear a meltdown at one of the plant’s reactors after radioactive material was detected outside it.
Japan’s NHK TV showed before and after pictures of the Fukushima plant. They appeared to show that the outer structure of one of four buildings at the plant had collapsed.
Live updates from the BBC say their environment correspondent understands the blast may have been due to a hydrogen explosion: “If nuclear fuel rods overheat and then come into contact with water, this produces a large amount of highly-flammable hydrogen gas which can then ignite,” the correspondent is quoted as saying.
The BBC, based on local media reports, also says that Japanese authorities have extended evacuation zones around the two Fukushima nuclear plants from 10km to 20km.
Five plants remain on a state of emergency; a precaution and a matter of procedure is how this was described by Prime Minister Naoto Kan on Friday.
Reports now suggest that small amounts of radioactive material have been detected outside one nuclear facility.
Japanese officials issued broad evacuation orders on Saturday for people living near two nuclear power plants whose cooling systems broke down as a result of the earthquake. The officials warned that small amounts of radioactive material were likely to leak from the plants.
Japanese media reported the sound of an explosion at one of the plants. Reuters quoted Jiji news agency as saying there had been an explosion at one of the plants — the 40-year-old Daiichi number one reactor — and television footage showed vapor rising from the plant about 150 miles north of Tokyo. The country’s nuclear safety agency did not confirm the reported incident.
The power plants, known as Daiichi and Daini and operated by Tokyo Electric Power, experienced critical failures of the cooling systems after the plants were shut down, as they were during the quake.
An agency official said that a valve had been successfully opened to reduce pressure inside that reactor.
Naoto Sekimura, a professor at Tokyo University, told NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster, that “only a small portion of the fuel has been melted. But the plant is shut down already, and being cooled down. Most of the fuel is contained in the plant case, so I would like to ask people to be calm.”
As to the nature of the material, CNN reports that Japan’s nuclear agency has, at this time, pinned it on a melting fuel rod at the plant:
The agency said there was a strong possibility that the radioactive cesium monitors detected was caused by the melting of a fuel rod at the plant, adding that engineers were continuing to cool the fuel rods by pumping water around them.
A spokesman for Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Agency earlier said atomic material had seeped out of one of the five nuclear reactors at the Daiichi plant, located about 160 miles (260 kilometers) north of Tokyo.
The evacuations notwithstanding, the nuclear safety agency asserted Saturday that the radiation at the plants did not pose an immediate threat to nearby residents’ health, the Kyodo News Agency said.
You can also watch video footage from a short time after blast at CNN here.
For more Care2 coverage of the Japanese earthquake and resulting nuclear situation, please click here.
This is a developing story and as such may be added to or clarified. Changes will appear below the fold.
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