The video below shows the explosion at the Fukushima Daichii nuclear reactor in Japan. Authorities are working to cool the reactor, but it is unknown whether the containment vessel has been damaged to the point that it can contain the radiation.
Among the most worrying developments was the possible meltdown of a nuclear reactor near the quake’s epicenter. Edano said an explosion caused by vented hydrogen gas destroyed the exterior walls of the building where the reactor is, but not the actual metal housing enveloping the reactor.
Edano said the radiation around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant had not risen after the blast, but had in fact decreased. He did not say why that was so. He added that pressure decreased after the blast.
Still, virtually any increase in ambient radiation can raise long-term cancer rates, and authorities were planning to distribute iodine, which helps protect against thyroid cancer.
Authorities have also evacuated people from a 12-mile radius around the reactor.
The explosion was caused by hydrogen interacting with oxygen outside the reactor. The hydrogen was formed when the superheated fuel rods came in contact with water being poured over it to prevent a meltdown.
“They are working furiously to find a solution to cool the core, and this afternoon in Europe we heard that they have begun to inject sea water into the core,” said Mark Hibbs, a senior associate at the Nuclear Policy Program for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “That is an indication of how serious the problem is and how the Japanese had to resort to unusual and improvised solutions to cool the reactor core.”
Officials have said that radiation levels were elevated before the blast: At one point, the plant was releasing each hour the amount of radiation a person normally absorbs from the environment each year.
The official death toll continues to rise, and is expected to reach into the thousands. In one town alone 9,500 people are missing. This is a disaster of epic proportions and the Japanese people are going to need all the help they can get. You can help by donating to the American Red Cross. Every little bit helps, and it all adds up.
Update: The news just keeps getting worse. A second nuclear reactor site has been compromised.
The Other McCain has been frequently updating the post I linked earlier. Be sure to follow his coverage.
Things are really, really bad over there. Hundreds of thousands of people are crammed into shelters. The death toll continues to rise and thousands of buildings are damaged and millions are without power. I just heard a report that an oil refinery has erupted into flames. Panicked survivors are struggling to keep warm and hoarding food. What an absolute nightmare.
That Mr. G Guy linked – thank you.