Sunday, March 13, 2011

Up to 4 Nuclear Plants in Trouble From Japan's Quake

10,000 dead in Japan amid fears of nuclear meltdowns

Published: Sunday, March 13, 2011 2:12 p.m. MDT
SENDAI, Japan — The estimated death toll from Japan's disasters climbed past 10,000 Sunday as authorities raced to combat the threat of multiple nuclear reactor meltdowns and hundreds of thousands of people struggled to find food and water. The prime minister said it was the nation's worst crisis since World War II.
Nuclear plant operators worked frantically to try to keep temperatures down in several reactors crippled by the earthquake and tsunami, wrecking at least two by dumping sea water into them in last-ditch efforts to avoid meltdowns. Officials warned of a second explosion but said it would not pose a health threat.
Near-freezing temperatures compounded the misery of survivors along hundreds of miles (kilometers) of the northeastern coast battered by the tsunami that smashed inland with breathtaking fury. Rescuers pulled bodies from mud-covered jumbles of wrecked houses, shattered tree trunks, twisted cars and tangled power lines while survivors examined the ruined remains.
One rare bit of good news was the rescue of a 60-year-old man swept away by the tsunami who clung to the roof of his house for two days until a military vessel spotted him waving a red cloth about 10 miles (15 kilometers) offshore.
The death toll surged because of a report from Miyagi, one of the three hardest hit states. The police chief told disaster relief officials more than 10,000 people were killed, police spokesman Go Sugawara told The Associated Press. That was an estimate — only 400 people have been confirmed dead in Miyagi, which has a population of 2.3 million.
According to officials, more than 1,800 people were confirmed dead — including 200 people whose bodies were found Sunday along the coast — and more than 1,400 were missing in Friday's disasters. Another 1,900 were injured.
For Japan, one of the world's leading economies with ultramodern infrastructure, the disasters plunged ordinary life into nearly unimaginable deprivation.
Hundreds of thousands of hungry survivors huddled in darkened emergency centers that were cut off from rescuers, aid and electricity. At least 1.4 million households had gone without water since the quake struck and some 1.9 million households were without electricity.
While the government doubled the number of soldiers deployed in the aid effort to 100,000 and sent 120,000 blankets, 120,000 bottles of water and 29,000 gallons (110,000 liters) of gasoline plus food to the affected areas, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said electricity would take days to restore. In the meantime, he said, electricity would be rationed with rolling blackouts to several cities, including Tokyo.

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Nuclear crisis deepens in post-quake Japan
TOKYO — Japanese officials struggled on Sunday to contain a quickly escalating nuclear crisis in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake and tsunami, saying they presumed that partial meltdowns had occurred at two crippled reactors, and that they were bracing for a second explosion, even as problems were reported at two more nuclear plants.
That brings the total number of troubled plants to four, including one that is about 75 miles north of Tokyo.
The emergency at the hardest hit plant, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, appeared to be the worst involving a nuclear plant since the Chernobyl disaster 25 years ago, and at least 22 residents near the plant showed signs of radiation exposure, according to local officials. The crisis at that plant, which is much farther from Tokyo, continued late Sunday.
A day after an explosion at one reactor there, Japanese nuclear officials said Sunday that operators at the plant had suffered a setback trying to bring the second reactor thought to be in partial meltdown there under control. The operators need to inject water to help cool the reactor and keep it from proceeding to a full meltdown, but a valve malfunctioned on Sunday, hampering their efforts for much of the day.
Pressure at the reactor rose during the delay, leading to increased worries of an explosion. At a late-night press conference, officials at Tokyo Electric Power Co., which runs the plant, said the valve had been fixed, but added that water levels had not yet begun rising.
Until late Sunday, the government had declared an emergency at only two nuclear plants, Daiichi and the nearby Fukushima Daini.
Then, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced that Japan had added a third to the list because radiation had been detected outside the plant, which is about 60 miles from Sendai, a city of 1 million people in Japan’s northeast. The government did not immediately confirm the report from the IAEA, which said it was not yet clear what caused the release of radiation.
Soon after that announcement, Kyodo News reported that a plant about 75 miles north of Tokyo was having cooling system problems.

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