Radiation thickening, Japan fights to avert disaster

15:18, March 15, 2011      

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High levels of radiation leaked Tuesday from a quake-damaged nuclear power plant about 240 kilometers north of Tokyo are threatening the health of more people, and the authorities has ordered people nearby to stay indoors as a precaution.

In a nationally televised announcement Tuesday morning following a cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said that radiation has spread from the four nuclear reactors of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

"The level seems very high, and there is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out," Kan said, even though he urged the public to keep calm.

Japanese media reports say that the government had warned 150,000 residents nearby to stay indoors to avoid exposure to dangerous radiation particles.

Radiation obviously thickened early Tuesday, as the plant’s No 2 reactor was rocked by a new explosion, feared to have partially damaged the valve linking it to the steel containment structure holding the nuclear fuel core. And, a sudden fire broke out at the No 4 reactor, where spent fuel rods were kept and were suspected to have exposed to air and spewing radiation gas.

Earlier, the authorities had ordered up to 800 engineers and workers to evacuate the power plant, leaving only 50 workers to continue pumping sea water with firefighting hoses in a desperate effort to cool down the nuclear reactors. The move seemed as a bid to not put that many human lives to harm’s way.

Meanwhile, Japan has asked for urgent help from the United States government and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency), according to media reports.

Tokyo also reported slightly elevated radiation levels, but officials there said the increase was too small to threaten the 35 million people living in and around the capital.

Officials just south of Fukushima reported up to 100 times the normal levels of radiation Tuesday morning, Kyodo News agency reported.

"Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told residents in the danger zone. "Don't turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors."

Public fears about potential health risks have risen in Japan on Tuesday with news of a greater radiation release and official warnings to stay behind closed doors and windows.

Japanese stocks plunged 10.6 percent on Tuesday, after a 6.2 percent drop on Monday, posting the worst two-day losing streak since 1987. Panic selling was triggered on Tuesday, as the news of imminent nuclear meltdown was reported by the press.

By People's Daily Online

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