Open Thread & News Round-Up: Japan Reactor News

There are some new concerns about the state of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant today. As before, good information is difficult to come by, but below are links to some of what I've been reading this afternoon; please feel welcome and encouraged to leave additional links in comments.

The GuardianJapanese nuclear officials fear crack in reactor core: "Nuclear safety officials in Japan fear the core of a reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have cracked, causing a leak of high levels of radiation. ... Nuclear officials say the leak may have come from pipes or the reactor's pool for storing spent fuel rods, which workers have been struggling to cool off since the plant was badly damaged in the 11 March earthquake and tsunami."

Reuters—Radiation fears mount again in Japan after plant workers hurt: "Radiation fears escalated in Japan on Friday after workers suffered burns as they tried to cool an earthquake-crippled nuclear power station. ... Three workers trying to cool one of the most critical reactors at the plant were exposed to radiation levels 10,000 times higher than normal, raising the possibility of a leak of radioactive material through a crack in the core's container."

CNN—Japan reactor core may be leaking radioactive material, official says:
Contaminated water likely seeped through the containment vessel protecting the reactor's core, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Japan Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Three employees working near the No. 3 reactor Thursday stepped into water that had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for a nuclear plant, Nishiyama said. An analysis of the contamination suggests "some sort of leakage" from the reactor core, signaling a possible break of the containment vessel that houses the core, he said.

The workers have been hospitalized and work inside the reactor building has been halted, according to the agency.

Work inside two other reactor buildings also had to stop and workers had to be pulled back Friday after the discovery of high levels of radiation in water at those locations, a Tokyo Electric Power Company official said Saturday. Water is still being pumped into the containment vessels, the utility official said.
New York TimesJapan Encourages a Wider Evacuation From Reactor Area: "The authorities said that they would now assist people who want to leave the area from 12 to 19 miles outside the plant and that 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."

AP—Humanitarian crisis continues: "Officials are also grappling with a humanitarian crisis, with much of the frigid northeast still a scene of despair and devastation as Japan struggles to feed and house hundreds of thousands of homeless survivors, clear away debris and bury the dead. Police said the official death toll jumped past 10,000 on Friday. With the cleanup and recovery operations continuing and more than 17,400 listed as missing, the final number of dead was expected to surpass 18,000."

Note all the qualifiers: Officials fear. Officials think. Officials think it's likely. Maybe this. Perhaps that.

There are so many unknowns. I feel so much compassion for the people of Japan, especially those in the most effected areas in the northeast, who are dealing with devastation on an indescribable level, and simultaneously facing this huge question mark regarding the reactor.

I also feel very helpless. Because I cannot think what else to do, I will suggest again that we support Doctors Without Borders, whose medical teams are on the ground in Japan and who are supporting a team of psychologists to help survivors process emotional trauma, too. Other ideas for teaspooning are welcome, as always.

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