The skeleton crew of workers has now been evacuated from the Fukushima nuclear plant because radiation levels are so dangerously high:
New assessments of the explosion at Unit 2 of Japan’s stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant Tuesday heightened fears that it will begin spewing large amounts of radiation
The explosion probably damaged the main protective shield around the uranium-filled core inside one of the plant’s six reactors. Such a breach would be the first at a nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl catastrophe in the Soviet Union 25 years ago.
The latest explosion — compounded by a fire in a different unit Wednesday morning — marked yet another setback in the five-day battle to stabilize the Daiichi facility, which suffered heavy damage to its cooling systems after Friday’s earthquake and tsunami. Other explosions occurred earlier at two of the plant’s reactors.
The blast Tuesday at Unit 2 was not outwardly visible, but potentially more dangerous because it may have created an escape route for radioactive material bottled up inside the thick steel-and-concrete reactor tube. Radiation-laced steam is probably building up between that tube and the building that houses it, experts said, triggering fears that the pressure would blow apart the structure, emitting radiation from the core.
“They’re putting water into the core and generating steam, and that steam has to go somewhere,” said Arnie Gunderson, a nuclear engineer with 40 years of experience overseeing the Vermont Yankee nuclear facility, whose reactors are of the same vintage and design as those at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It has to be carrying radiation.”
Nuclear experts have repeatedly stressed that radiation releases on the scale of Chernobyl are unlikely or even impossible, given the Japanese plant’s heavier engineering and additional layers of containment..