Fukushima: Wider Evacuation “Encouraged”

March 25, 2011

Botched communications remain the most remarkable and consistent feature of of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

With each passing day, we are told that officials at the scene are bringing the situation under control, only to find, in a day, or an hour, that “you know, that thing we told you yesterday? Well, that wasn’t exactly true, it turns out things are worse than we thought….”

With this as the backdrop, today’s announcement that Japanese authorities are urging “voluntary evacuations” to a wider  zone around the afflicted reactors comes as an ominous confirmation that all is still not well at the site.

The NYTimes reports:

TOKYO — Japanese officials began encouraging people to evacuate a larger swath of territory around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Friday as new signs emerged that parts of the crippled facility are so damaged and contaminated that it will be hard to bring the plant under control soon.

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.

“The situation still requires caution,” (Japanese Prime Minister Naoto) Kan, grave and tired-looking, told the nation. “Our measures are aimed at preventing the circumstances from getting worse.”

“The state of the plant is still quite precarious,” he said. “We’re working hard to make sure it doesn’t get worse. We have to ensure there’s no further deterioration.”

In the latest setback in 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 mixed oxides or mox fuel in the reactor — a combination of uranium and plutonium — could be released.

Observers speculate the the new announcement is related to recent reports that a containment vessel at one of the reactors has been breached.

The Toronto Star has this:

The uncertain nuclear situation halted work at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex, where authorities have been scrambling to stop the overheated facility from leaking dangerous radiation. Low levels of radiation have been seeping out since the March 11 quake and tsunami knocked out the plant’s cooling system, but a breach could mean a much larger release of contaminants. The most likely consequence would be contamination of the groundwater.

“The situation today at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant is still very grave and serious. We must remain vigilant,” a sombre Prime Minister Naoto Kan said. “We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care.”(emphasis mine – PS)

The possible breach in the plant’s Unit 3 might be a crack or a hole in the stainless steel chamber of the reactor core or in the spent fuel pool that’s lined with several feet of reinforced concrete. The temperature and pressure inside the core, which holds the fuel rods, remained stable and was far lower than what would further melt the core.

Suspicions of a possible breach were raised when two workers suffered skin burns after wading into water 10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found in water in or around a reactor, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

Needless to say, radiation intense enough to cause skin burns is not good news.

One Response to “Fukushima: Wider Evacuation “Encouraged””

  1. BlueRock Says:

    Every day for the past 2 weeks I’ve been that told I “don’t understand the technology”, or I’m being “hysterical”, or “it’s all under control” – but every time I’m vindicated.

    You cannot trust the official reports. This is exactly what happened with Chernobyl. Nuclear corporations – or governments that control it – are built on secrecy.

    Secrecy isn’t much of a worry if they’re building wind turbines, but it’s a bit of a concern when they’re building ‘slow release toxic bombs’.

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